Constructive Conflict: How To Have A Conversation with Someone You Disagree With
So, you’ve found yourself in a situation where you are having a conversation with someone who has a different opinion than you. Maybe it is even an opinion that you vehemently disagree with, causing bile to rise up from your gut. It’s okay. Here’s how to handle it.
#1 - Take a Time Out.
If you are feeling angry, defensive, and reactionary – you are in your reptile brain, and there are only a few things you can do in your reptile brain: Fight, Flight, Fawn or Freeze. Since none of these things will not help to have a productive conversation, you need to get back into your cortex or thinking brain. Remember, you can always ask for a moment to think, you can count to 20 in your head before responding, or excuse yourself to the restroom or to get a drink. Do whatever you need to do to create a bit of time for yourself to get out of your reactionary mode. (For more information about that reactionary space, also known as an amygdala hijack, check out my blog here.)
#2 - Listen.
Okay, now that you are back in your cortex and you can operate like a human and not a reptile, the first order of business is to listen. Now, let me tell you a secret about listening… most people don’t know how to do it. The lack of listening skills is epidemic in our American culture. I have a blog on listening skills here, but these are the basics you need to know in a situation where you are conversing with someone with a vastly different opinion than you:
“You said it even better than I could have said it”
“Yes! You totally get me!”
Then, and ONLY THEN, can you go to the next step.
#3 - Share your position.
Now that you are positive that you’ve heard and understood the other person, you can clearly express your opinion. To allow yourself to be more easily heard, use these tips:
➡️ Be aware of your energy. Lets be honest here, when someone thinks that you are wrong, dumb or foolish – you can feel that energy. All of us have had a time when we’ve experienced someone’s words being nice, but their energy saying something very different. So, keep your energy open and curious.
➡️ Keep your Language Positive. Stay away from name calling, labeling, or using sweeping generalizations.
➡️ Use Expansive Words. Stay away from closed words like “always” and “never” that limit possibilities. This also includes ‘should-ing on’ people. Don’t ‘should’ on someone. No one should be a different way. Allow others to be exactly who they are. For list of expansive language, click here.
➡️ Do not use sarcasm. Sarcasm can often be misunderstood and can frequently feel like a put-down. If you do use sarcasm, clarify it and your reasons for using it.
➡️ No ad hominem attacks. This basically means, do not direct your argument against the person, remember to direct it at the position they are maintaining.
➡️ Offer Respect. ALL of us have value and our environments created all of the opinions, feelings and thoughts we each have. Stay open and curious about why the other person sees the world as they do (especially if it’s vastly different than your own world view).
➡️ Check in. Ask the person to repeat in his or her own words what you have said so that you can make sure that no miscommunication has occurred.
You can repeat this process as many times as you need to. Even if both of you walk away retaining your original opinions, you will walk away feeling good because you have been heard, accepted, acknowledged and respected.
It’s not about forcing people to think like us and be like us, folks. It is about sharing ourselves in an open and vulnerable way and listening to others with the intent to understand them.
This is communication. This is how we make a difference in the world. If you are interested in more on this topic, I recommend Energy Leadership for an inspiring, easy read about how your energy communicates to others, and the power behind learning how to use energy in your life.
I also love Marshall B. Rosenburg's book, NonViolent Communication. Rosenburg says, "Empathy allows us to re-perceive our world in a new way and move forward." I couldn't agree more.
Listening is one of those skills that most people take for granted. We think we know how to do it. In fact, we are so sure that we know how to listen that most of us never even consider taking a course or reading a book to learn how to listen.
My experience, however, is that very few people are good listeners… but those that are, they are revolutionizing their relationships, empowering people around them, and leaving a positive footprint in the world.
Here is a simple breakdown of the three types of listening:
Level One: Subjective (All about the listener)
Subjective listening occurs when whatever is said is heard through the experiences of the listener and how they relate to the listener. Listening in this case, is based on the agenda or needs of the listener and rarely satisfies the speaker.
Level one listening:
Level Two: Objective (neutral)
Objective listening occurs when the listener is completely focused on the other person. There is no thought about how any of the information relates personally to the listener. This level is more effective than subjective listening, and is sometimes very effective, but often doesn’t get to the “heart” of the matter.
Here is an example of level two listening:
Level Three: Intuitive or Active (all about the speaker)
Intuitive listening occurs when the listener is using all sensory components and intuitively connecting to the real message of the speaker. The listener has all his or her attention on not only what the speaker says, but also how they say it (the tone of voice, energy level, feelings, etc.), including what ISN'T being said.
This level is the most powerful form of listening, and when mastered, allows the listener the opportunity to deeply connect with the speaker. This level of listening is an act of love. When a person listens at a level three, you are helping the speaker explore what they are sharing and even understand it deeper themselves. This level of listening is the seed for emotional intimacy, understanding, connection, collaboration, and growth.
It’s important to remember that it doesn’t matter if the listener's intuition is right or wrong – simply exploring it will open the conversation and build intimacy with the speaker.
Here is an example of level three listening:
What type of listening do you use most often in your day-to-day life? How would practicing this skill impact your life?
Interested in discovering how coaching could help you get extraordinary results in your life & work? Schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation.
Mindy Amita Aisling