It’s nothing new to disagree with the ones you love, whether it’s about COVID-19, quarantine, religion, guns, racism, politics, football or something else. In fact, chances are pretty good that you completely disagree on certain topics with someone you care deeply about. The disagreements may be so intense you wonder how you can actually co-exist.
The level of intensity might feel more so at this moment in time in our culture. In fact, many people can hardly believe that the people they love have such different perspectives from their own. The ongoing stress from trying to navigate these issues can take a massive toll on our relationships. FOR REAL.
What do you do when you strongly disagree with the ones you love?
Although you might be tempted to confront them and tell them they are just plain wrong, you might want to reconsider. That plan probably won’t go very well for you because it’s likely your loved one will feel attacked. Nobody wants to feel attacked, right?
Instead, start by asking yourself a few questions.
What is the goal of my conversation with this person?
Do I just want to share information?
Am I trying to understand their perspective?
Do I feel the need to convince them they are wrong?
Am I trying to prove that I have a valid point?
Do I have to WIN?
Taking the time to think about your ultimate goal can help you prepare to constructively engage with them.
It may help to remember that no matter how hard you try, you cannot change someone else or make them see something the very same way that you do. Yelling at them, belittling them, coming across as condescending, stomping out of the room or being sarcastic will only fuel the fire. And it will take you further away from your intended goal.
Plenty of married couples, extended family,, siblings and roommates have vehemently disagreed about things, yet their love and respect for each other was never in question. How you have the discussion matters.
Here are some tips you can use to make your conversations productive:
- Look for things you do agree on. It is likely that you agree on far more than you disagree about.
- Kindness and respect goes a long way when trying to discuss difficult topics. Be aware of your tone of voice and body language.
- Avoid imagining how you think the conversation will go or how it has gone in the past. Playing negative scenarios in your head will actually increase your stress. It could also steer the conversation downhill straight out of the gates.
- Be prepared to genuinely listen to their perspective—even if you already believe you don’t agree with them and can’t fathom how they could believe what they believe. When people feel heard, you are more likely to keep the conversation going and avoid damaging your relationship. **PRO-TIP: Paraphrase what you hear and avoid using the word, “but.” Using “but” negates everything that the other person just said. Try using “and” instead.**
- If it feels like the conversation is becoming heated, remember that getting louder will escalate the situation for sure. Plus, it actually makes it harder to hear what is being said. If you are struggling to think clearly or keep your cool, take a break. Say you need to go to the bathroom or you need to get a drink of water—anything to take a break in the action and allow yourselves time to breathe. Pausing is powerful.
- Avoid using “You always, you never,” and “You should.” Instead, focus on yourself and share your perspective while using “I” statements (I feel, I believe, I want, I need, etc.).
These are particularly stressful times, and when you disagree with the ones you love, IT’S HARD.
This means that many of us are experiencing extended periods of heightened anxiety and are constantly in a fight or flight mode—which is totally not normal. Fuses are shorter and we are probably more easily irritated. And, we may react more quickly, especially if we’ve been thinking or dwelling on the topic at hand. Acknowledge this and think through the fact that how we handle difficult conversations can impact the quality of our relationships.
It’s vital to remember that this is a process. If over time the conversation seems to go nowhere, you may need to set boundaries around this topic in an effort to keep from destroying the relationship. Keep in mind that if you choose to walk away from the relationship, you will no longer have the opportunity to present a different perspective.