Disagreeing isn’t an issue. In fact, it’s a normal part of life and something that’s unlikely to be able to be avoided completely. However, how things are handled, how you voice that disagreement and how the other party hears it, all make the difference between a situation that escalates or a conflict that’s able to be resolved amiably.
So how do you then speak your mind without losing your cool? Understanding a few basic strategies can make a world of difference when resolving conflict.
1. Choose Your Battles Wisely
There’s a lot of truth in this phrase. Choosing your battles will not only lead to more peace overall but also more effective “winning” of the battles which are really important to you.
Basically, it’s about knowing when to speak up and when to be silent. Being perceived as argumentative and disagreeable or a “know it all” is inevitable if you constantly disagree, fight or argue about everything. If you want people to listen to your view points, then pick what you speak up about. Rather choose to argue about things that you believe are substantive, meaningful and important. This way your opinions and disagreements will bear more weight. As a result, people will be more inclined to both listen and respect your opinions. To do this you may need to evaluate your priorities and make a conscious decision about what you are prepared to argue about and what you not.
2. Keep Your Emotions in Check
It’s understandable that you will feel strongly about something that’s important to you. However, when discussing your viewpoint, it is important to keep control over your emotions. The more emotional you become, when discussing something, the less likely someone is to listen to what you are saying and the chance of you finding resolution is considerably decreased. Additionally, the more emotional one gets, the more one tends to take and make things personal. This generally escalates things or can cause bigger conflicts than what you originally started out discussing.
3. First Understand the Other Person then Talk
Disagreeing with someone without creating tension, animosity or conflict is a skill. The starting point being to understand the other person’s point ahead of them understanding yours.
5 Strategies for Better Understanding Someone Else’s Viewpoint:
1. Listen Properly: Active listening makes the speaker feel respected and valued. The key to listening properly is asking questions. It helps clarify the conflict and ensures that we understand what’s actually being spoken about rather than our interpretation thereof. By actively listening you can also know exactly what you are disagreeing about and then know better how to proceed.
2. It’s about the Problem not the Person: Remember, it’s the issue that’s under scrutiny not the other person. Stick to the facts and don’t resort to name calling or personal attacks. If you do want to say something a bit more personal, then stop and ask yourself – Is this true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?
3. Be Open Minded: Using phrases like “I believe that…” or “I noticed that…” will help make your approach within a discussion more reasonable. It can also be quite beneficial to ask for their suggestions instead of pushing your own agenda. This way you are also more likely to find a middle ground or reach a compromise.
4. Body Language Matters: Often actions speak louder than words. Non-verbal communication is quite important when it comes to signalling that you’re listening and open to hearing what someone else is saying. Try to maintain eye contact, not cross your arms or legs and smile while they talking. Aim to project confidence and tone down your voice. If the other person interrupts you, relax your body and let them finish their thoughts before continuing to offer your own.
5. Disagree Respectfully: How you say something sometimes matters much more than what you saying. Rather than shout over someone who disagrees with you, acknowledge what they say, note that you have different opinions and then ask if you can share your own with them. Disagreement is not verbal abuse, but it can escalate to verbal or physical abuse if respect isn’t maintained.
4. Don’t Accept Verbal Abuse
The expression: ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words may never hurt me” is a myth. Words can actually be incredibly unhelpful, hurtful or even detrimental to someone, especially if they are in a verbally abusive situation.
Continuous verbal abuse, often packaged in the form of jokes, “constructive” criticism or backhanded compliments, can negatively impact the recipient’s psychological wellbeing. If this is the situation, then walking away quietly or “turning the other cheek” will not resolve the conflict. Instead, these approaches are very likely to perpetuate the situation as well as leave you fuming afterwards. When under verbal attack it is best rather to identify the speech for what it is and take action to protect yourself from the abuser. If the situation is unlikely to escalate to physical abuse, then talking to the perpetrator is a good course of action. Explain that while they may not see the harm in what they are saying, you do. And are therefore asking them to stop doing it or you will need to stop talking to them.
Being able to identify people, situations and/or behaviours which cultivate hurt, fear, inadequacy or shame is a significant advantage when trying to resolve verbally abusive situations. To help determine if you are a victim or target of verbal abuse, ask yourself these questions:
- How often does this person cut me down with his or her words?
- How often do I feel intimidated, shamed, or insulted after a conversation?
- Am I afraid to raise certain issues for fear of the tongue lashing that may ensue?
- Does he or she purposely humiliate me in front of others and then tell me I’m being overly sensitive?
- Do I feel diminished every time we try to have a discussion?
Abuse in any form is unacceptable. If you are battling with a verbally abusive situation, don’t keep silent. Rather surround yourself with a good support network of family and friends and seek counselling together or separately.
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