How to Disagree Without Being the Villain

How you disagree may be a sign of your character and how you handle conflict, which is why it’s important to have the right tools in place to help you disagree.

Disagreements happen all the time in our lives. It is human nature. Mistakes will be made, feelings hurt, and episodes of drama will emerge. Whether it’s something at home or amongst colleagues, disagreements can transpire over numerous things. 

How you disagree may be a sign of your character and how you handle conflict, which is why it’s important to have the right tools in place to help you disagree.

How to Disagree Without Being Disagreeable

  1. Listen carefully to the other person.
  2. Don’t make an argument personal.
  3. Work toward finding middle ground.
  4. Don’t win the argument at any cost.
  5. Refrain from the “I” or “me” stance.
  6. Don’t jump to conclusions.
  7. Be patient and respectful of others’ arguments.
  8. Admit you might be wrong.

 One challenge in modern society is determining what makes up agreement and disagreement – who’s right, who’s wrong, who’s rude and who isn’t.

There’s a tendency in social media to take differences personally and attack the person as opposed to the argument. Yet, common opinions seem polluted by purposefully incendiary statements and personal attacks.

There’s a widening gulf between “truth” and comments that are just downright nasty.

Have you ever been in a case where you just couldn’t agree with someone? Perhaps it was because they insulted your intelligence, or maybe they insulted your appearance. They just didn’t seem to be interested in your opinion.

This article outlines how to be firm without being an ogre. Let’s just face it: there’re multitudes of haters in this world. And it is so annoying when someone wants to step on you and get you to feel inferior when they do not know you.

So how are we supposed to know how to handle these people?

Disagreement Is Not a Bad Thing

Honest disagreement is a great way to build relationships and create a deeper understanding. Rather than getting sucked into the emotions that drive disagreement, we can instead stay focused on an important goal: learning from one another’s ideas so we can grow intellectually.

There are ways to bring up an argument, or opinion and not make enemies. It’s just that those ways are underutilized.

Most people are unaware that it’s possible to disagree with another person without alienating them. In fact, there are techniques to disagree that can actually lead to greater understanding.

Disagreeing is important. The way we communicate – especially when we disagree – shapes how our world moves forward.

Disagreeing does not have to be rude, and disagreeing does not have to mean that someone is wrong.

Our society is becoming less tolerant of disagreement, and if we want to have any hope for the future, it’s important that we get accustomed to acting in a civil and non-judgmental manner.

What Is Rudeness?

“Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.” – Eric Hoffer

Rudeness is a “found” emotion: it is triggered automatically by events that are out of the ordinary. Rudeness is not kindness, or respect, or consideration. It isn’t honesty or generosity or compassion. Rudeness is insensitivity. It is intolerance in any of its forms.

Rudeness is a global epidemic that prevents friendship, peace and productivity. It is born of self-centeredness, ignorance, greed, and anger, and this presents a myriad of forms in various settings. It might be intentional or unintentional. We’ve all witnessed examples of rudeness virtually everywhere.

1.  Listen Carefully to the Other Person

If you desire to increase chances at resolving an argument, listen to what the other party has to say. This may come across as a no-brainer but you would be surprised how few people actually do this.

The simple act of truly listening will assist the other person to calm down and vent their frustrations. Getting resolve will feel much easier because both parties have had their concerns addressed. Remember that rarely is the issue just one thing.

Think and hold back before you speak. Build a foundation of trust by learning to listen in an argument.

When we argue with people, it’s often because of misunderstandings – the kind that occurs when you are not hearing each other. So, in future, if you find yourself in a heated argument, take a deep breath and hear them out.

Whether you are having a friendly debate or a high stakes transaction, the ability to listen and understand the other person’s perspective is key.

Listen carefully to what others are saying, and this isn’t an easy task. Under stress, people talk quickly and are not always clear or coherent. Follow-up questions are often required, causing further distraction and sometimes raised voices.

During these heated moments, it’s difficult to pay attention to what’s being said, much less comprehend its meaning.

2.  Don’t Make an Argument Personal

Whether it’s an argument with your partner, a fight with a colleague, or a painful family dispute, disagreements about politics, religion, money, or parenting is among those that provoke the most intense reactions from people.

They might get us to feel isolated and alone. The conventional wisdom is that when people don’t agree with us, we’re not doing something right. Here’s the hard truth: If you want to influence someone’s mind, it’s counterproductive to attack their character or intelligence.

The first step in disagreeing without being condescending is knowing what personal boundaries mean and how to respect them.

That alone would resolve many disagreements before they get started.

Don’t just tell people how wrong they seem. Your disagreement doesn’t need to involve a “losing battle.”

If stated correctly in the opening, an argument can convey your perspective and encourage others to consider your thinking. You must remember to avoid making it personal.

3.  Work Toward Finding Middle Ground

In today’s culture, it is hard to find a middle ground in an argument, but a three-step process will help: Being honest, keeping your emotions under control, and finally having a plan.

The art of compromise can be a tough one.

Whether friends or just colleagues, sometimes two people will want similar outcomes and no simple way to resolve it.

Get to know each other’s objections and attempt to seek the underlying reason behind your disagreements. Try to understand where s/he is coming from, and figure out how to find common ground or agree somewhere in future with their point of view.

If you cannot find any common ground, just remain respectful and don’t fight. 

4.  Don’t Win the Argument at Any Cost

If people are not open to your way of thinking or to change their minds, don’t waste time fighting them.

We can’t resolve every disagreement or agree on everything we do. The trick is to determine which disputes are worth having and, even more important, how to pick our battles wisely.

People spend too much energy on petty squabbles and on insisting to “win” an argument. Good relationships are built when each person values the other’s opinion and learns from it.

Know when it’s time to stop an argument.

Don’t be an “activist bore” by forcing your opinion on others and driving them away with your cause.

We all know the feeling when we’re convinced we’re right and others are wrong. So instead of continuing the debate until someone wins, why not try listening well instead?  

Focus on communicating your ideas well and remember that you don’t have to be right 100% of the time. The key to a good argument isn’t convincing someone that you’re right; it’s understanding what others want too. Then you can figure out how to make both your needs work together.

5.  Refrain from the “I” Or “Me” Stance

When we’re in conflict, it’s natural to feel invested. So, you have decided that your opponent’s argument is flawed. Good job. But do not get caught up in ego-centred modes of thinking.

If you respond with “I”, “I” and “I”, your participation risks becoming about you, your stance on the issue, and your drive to be recognized as worthy of respect – not the issue itself.

In an argument, stay away from an “I” or “me” stance.

Instead, use “We'” or “You and I”. Using these pronouns prove that you are taking the high road.

Arguing is not about making the other person feel bad or pay for their mistakes. Don’t get personal.

6.  Don’t Jump to Conclusions

Healthy debate is a great way to get to the crux of an issue. It also assists you to grasp and relate. Disagree with facts.

An argument is a discussion where two or more people disagree in order to conclude. If you jump to conclusions you have decided that you are right and the other individual is wrong without listening carefully.

The one who jumps to conclusions, is not paying attention but relies on preconceived notions.

Don’t assume that what you believe to be the truth is really the truth. You may be completely wrong about what you think you know, so be careful. Reflect on a situation before responding and say nothing rash. Remember: it’s ok to agree to disagree.

If you scrutinize, you might discover that what you think is true actually isn’t true. Stop rushing to conclusions and spend time to understand what’s been said. 

7.  Be Patient and Respectful of Others’ Arguments

We all know the emotion of being in a conversation where your opinion is not valued, chances are you will be less likely to engage in conversation with that person again and perhaps you got defensive about it.

If we approach conversations with a desire to understand the other’s perspective, we increase our chances of actually exchanging information, learning from the experience, and making wise decisions.

 Start with making sure you respect the other person’s viewpoint. Disagree with grace. Be kind.   

A good debate is respectful and measured. It allows for diverse opinions. Be persistent without being pushy, polite without being reserved, and passionate without being defensive. Just remember either side of an argument can change mindsets for the better.

8.  Admit You Might Be Wrong

You might think you are immune to the following. You unleash some killer argument, and as you’re walking away, you realize that your logic was flawed.

Don’t make the other party feel bad for being right. Just admit to your mistake and move on.

Sometimes we’re just so sure we’re right, we refuse to admit when we’re wrong. But is it better to be stubbornly wrong than admit you might be wrong?

You are human. What could be more valuable than admitting that you might be wrong? Consider another perspective.

No-one enjoys losing an argument. It is like letting someone win a fight.

Simply admit you might have been wrong and then smile at your sweet surrender.

Your colleague/partner will be overjoyed that his or her perspective is finally recognized, and this gesture will help maintain a healthy relationship.

If you’re on the fence about an argument and aren’t sure how to proceed, tell the other party that you have likely made a mistake. Once you open up the possibility, be ready to listen and make any necessary concessions.

It’s not a secret that making mistakes is a natural part of life. We all do it in the past, present and future.

So, when you make a mistake, admit it, acknowledge it and apologize for it. Do not understate or overstate your error. Or be ambiguous about the whole thing. Be clear and straightforward about what happened and don’t infuse it with negative or positive connotations.

Remember that your relationships are more important than always being “right” at the expense of everything. This will win you credibility points in the long run.

Be careful saying you are right all the time because you might end up losing some true friendships. It builds trust and helps us grow as people, particularly in close relationships.

Starting the conversation without admitting to making a mistake or being wrong can be a challenge. Your ego might interfere with that, but it’s impossible to fix the current situation without it.

People who keep insisting on being right are the same ones who harbour resentment and grow angry over time, and it damages their relationships. Having people around you who can admit mistakes also means that they will be corrected, which is a constructive and positive thing. This ability to admit mistakes shows humility and maturity.

Human beings often have the character flaw of being too proud to admit their mistakes.

Have you ever been in a situation when you were so sure of what you said that you ignored people’s opinions about it? Did you pay attention to the world around you and other people’s thoughts and needs?

It doesn’t mean that we are stupid, it just means that we don’t know everything. As much as we would like to think that we know everything there is to know about everything we don’t.

Sometimes a person is wrong, even when they feel they are right. 

It takes courage to apologize sincerely, and sometimes it just is not enough to say “I’m sorry”.

Guess what? One of the most effective ways to build rapport and trust is by admitting if you have been wrong. Being able to admit an error, and be open to feedback from others, shows that you are authentic and humble.

No one knows everything.

“I was wrong” is a phrase that should be used much more often than it is.

Sometimes you feel like saying ‘‘I was wrong’’, but then fear the other person will think less of you, but it’s just the opposite – people respect you for having the courage to admit you’re made a mistake or being wrong and that you’re willing to change and grow as a person.

One of the most effective ways to warm up a cold email is to begin by admitting a mistake or error in judgment. You might think that it appears needy or weak, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is a sign of strength and confidence.

In pursuing being right, what we are forgetting is that we have a bunch of other things that are more important than arguing all the time. Many people cannot accept when they are wrong. They always need to be right.

There’s a misconception that being right is pivotal to a healthy relationship, so most people are afraid to admit if they’ve been wrong.