Disagreement Resolution

Moving Beyond I’m Right and You’re Wrong

Jun 03

How often have you disagreed with someone and wished they would only admit they are wrong and you are right? For most of us, the answer to that question is probably “More than I’d like to admit.”

Whether the issues are small or large, disagreements are bound to happen when people are passionate and committed. Not all disagreements end in an impasse or need to be resolved, but when decisions need to be made or actions taken, ignoring them is not an option. Disagreement isn’t the end of the world. Instead, it’s quite the contrary.

Disagreement is a natural part of life that, when handled productively, can lead to more collaborative relationships and unexpected solutions. Resolving disagreements without damage and loss of trust creates healthy relationships that are essential to thriving, happiness, and success on both the personal and professional levels.

Here are some tools to help ensure that when the inevitable disagreement arises, you can focus on getting the other person to do what you need in the long term without asking them to be wrong.

  • Don’t continue to insist you’re right. Insisting you’re right causes the other person to become more entrenched and defensive. Test for shared understanding, and ask questions to clarify what you believe you’ve heard and understood.
  • Slow down. Listen to understand the other person’s point of view without trying to persuade the person with your opinions and arguments. Avoid the urge to win in-the-moment victories. Find out what the other person needs for them to give you what you need.
  • Use empathy tactically. It is hard for someone to see you as an opponent when they feel you know exactly what they are feeling. Remember, however, that tactically empathizing with their feelings does not mean that you think their point of view is correct. It means that you are in a place of feeling what they feel, and you respect where they are.
  • Resist the desire to give your counterargument the first time you are asked, and postpone answering for as long as you can. Do this by letting the other person know that you are finally starting to understand where they are coming from and want to hear more about their perspective before you give yours. When you’ve been asked a few times and know you have a good understanding of their point of view, give your opinion. However, if you hear yourself saying, “I understand you believe this, but…”—take a step back and seek more understanding.
  • When your opinion is contrary to the other person’s perspective, apologize for how your opinion might make the other person feel and acknowledge that you could be wrong. Let the other person know you’re willing to agree to disagree on certain points. Assure them that you still want to work with them to achieve goals that you might not totally agree with but will give each of you what you need.
  • Highlight areas where there is common ground as a starting point. Together define what is at the core of what matters most to both of you. Brainstorm some new solutions that may work for each of you. Use persuasion to co-design an outcome that, at its core, contains the things that each of you really needs in the long run.

There are no assurances that every disagreement can be resolved, but truly listening to the other person’s point of view, empathizing with the person, and looking for ways to co-create an outcome allows you to deal with disagreement without damaging the relationship and violating trust. In the end, if the disagreement is not resolved, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you gave your best effort.

Are you ready to give it a try?