Disagreements are Perfectly Normal

There are disagreements in every relationship. It makes no difference if we’re talking about a personal relationship or a business relationship people bring their own point of view into the relationship. When those points of view are not in sync then disagreements happen.

 

Most are easily resolved. But sometimes those disagreements can only be overcome by a mutual and conscientious effort to find some kind of common ground. The key here is “mutual” effort. If only one of the parties to the relationship is interested in finding a solution to the disagreement the relationship is unlikely to survive for long. 

     

You are far more likely to be successful in resolving the disagreement if that effort takes place in a non-adversarial environment. If your goal is to resolve the disagreement then you have a chance to strengthen your relationship. If your goal is to “win” the argument then your secondary goal, even if only subconsciously, is to make the other person a loser.

 

How much value do you really place in the relationship if your goal is to make the other person feel as if they have lost something? Before you allow any discussion to become an argument I’d suggest you ask yourself if the relationship is more important to you than proving yourself right. You won’t find too many people who like being in a relationship with someone who makes them feel like a loser.

 

It’s far more productive to think of a dispute as a difference that can be resolved, not a battle you have to win. Even people with conflicting viewpoints should be able to find solutions that work for all parties if they are truly interested in trying.

 

Here are some other ideas to help you with what can be difficult conversations:

       

Listen carefully to what the other person is saying. Ask for clarification when you need it. Never guess at what they mean. This ensures that you understand how the other person sees the problem. It also sends the message that you are reasonable and gives others the opportunity to voice their views. Misunderstandings only escalate the disagreement. Again, never guess at what the other person means. 

       

Explain your position clearly, providing clarifications that are requested in a non-emotional way. Everybody needs to be as sure as you are about the point you are making. Do not attempt to provide clarifications as to why something makes you mad while you’re still mad about it. Anger is an emotion that is tough to hide. Let it subside at least a bit before tackling the issue.

       

Figure out why the other person is taking a different position. Get to the heart of the issue and know why a certain outcome is being argued. No matter how unreasonable you may think the other position is don’t forget that if you were that other person you would feel exactly as they do. If your life experiences and history was the same as theirs you would be arguing for them and not with them. 

 

Their viewpoint doesn’t make them a bad person, it makes them a different person than you. 

       

Stay on the subject. You won’t settle one disagreement by rehashing another one. This tactic derails the discussion. It puts the other person on the defensive, making it even harder to reach an agreement.

        

Refrain from verbal cheap shots. Don’t embarrass yourself by suggesting that others are unable to see the big picture or incapable of thinking through the situation. You may not have ever said the word but have no doubt that the other person just heard you call them stupid. 

       

Be fair. I know it’s pretty common for people to want to “win” the argument. But understand that your best hope of successfully overcoming the disagreement is in allowing the other person to maintain their sense of self-worth. When you demonstrate fairness you’ll keep the other person engaged, calm, and open minded.

 

The person on the “other side” of the disagreement is not your opponent. If the relationship is important to you then understand that the disagreement itself is your common opponent. Attack the disagreement, not each other. 


Disagreements can actually strengthen relationships or they can easily destroy them. It’s all about how they are handled. I’d suggest you handle them with care.

 

 

6 thoughts on “Disagreements are Perfectly Normal

  1. Steve.
    This may be a rather strange response but I will send it along anyway. When I read the title with the two words together, “perfectly normal” I set to wondering. Is there an imperfect normal or just an average normal? We have all heard of the “new normal” and even that bothers me. So, I ask myself why and here’s what comes up. Few people I know want to accept the label, “normal” as it seems like it’s somewhere in the middle. My wife says “normal” is a button on the washing machine. Most of us in leadership do not want our work to be normal; we want it to be exceptionally good, above normal, somewhere close to the highest level. I believe I know what you meant and what you intended for the title, that disagreements can be welcomed and that we can learn from them. Accepting a disagreement is an opportunity for feedback and that is gold.

    1. Hi Gary, what if the title was “Disagreements are not Abnormal.” It kinda seems to me (but I’m old) that “normal” is kinda in short supply these days. The combination of “perfectly normal” would indicate that there is nothing wrong with disagreements. The post simply explains (I hope) that the problem comes from how we disagree. Imagine the work that could get done in Congress for instance if the individual with the different viewpoint wasn’t considered to be an enemy.

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