My mother is always right. There is no telling her that she may be wrong about anything because her defenses automatically go up and her inclination to argue fires up inside her. I know that I have some of this in me as well, so together we have had some full blown arguments. I've learned the hard way that when it comes to her and I, avoiding an argument is best. However, a friendly disagreement can be a healthy way to solve a problem, you just need to learn a few tips to help the argument stay both civil and productive.
Whether it is your boss, your mother, your child or your spouse arguing takes a load of energy and can leave both parties, right and wrong, feeling drained and defeated. I’d like to say how nice it would be to live in the perfect world where no one argued and we all got along wonderfully, but how boring and unproductive would that be?! I’m just speculating, maybe it would be ideal but let’s not dwell on things we will never have.
The truth is we all disagree with each other because not any of us are the same. Some of us see things completely differently from each other and the only way to sift through our differences is to have a friendly (yeah, sure it works out this way sometimes) discussion regarding our differences (wouldn't it be nice?!).
What is a Difficult Person? I once sat in on a very interesting seminar, when I worked in the legal field, that shared ideas on how to deal with difficult people (and face it when you work in the legal field regardless of what kind of law you are practicing they are almost ALL difficult people). The person sitting next to me asked the presenter how we were to recognize a difficult person (we all snickered a little because the answer felt obvious). “Well” our presenter responded smiling slightly “a difficult person is anyone who disagrees with you". He was right, it really is that simple. In truth we are all difficult people.
So How Do You Argue Smart? So how do we disagree with someone without a full blown argument and come away feeling okay about it? It can be difficult, especially since the only person you have control over in any disagreement is yourself, but the following tips will help you navigate through any disagreement.
1. Bite your tongue and listen. I’m not saying don’t to completely zip your lip, just let the other person present their case, before interrupting and telling them your side. This can be difficult especially if they are long winded, but hold out you will get a turn to speak and if necessary. Now, just because you are listening to someone doesn't mean you agree with them. You are validating them and that is very important to the other party. They believe the way they do for a reason (even if it seems silly to you). Arguing with my seven year old can often be tiring because her reasoning seems irrational. However it is very important that she feels like she is being heard, just like anyone else you may have a disagreement with. It’s a matter of respect, and if you listen to the other party intently, chances are (not always) they will listen to you.
Perhaps you can even take a note pad out and you can write down all the things you would like to address, this might be interesting if your spouse is the one you are arguing with. I've help my hand up once or twice during an argument with my husband and asked for a moment to get a note pad and pen, so I knew what I would say in my rebuttal.
2. Cut to the chase. Arguments can often go on too long and if you take too long to prove your point you are going to lose your listener. It’s hard to listen to someone try and prove their point when you don't agree, so cut out all the bells and whistles and make it short and sweet.
3. Don't take disagreements personally. This can be especially true if you are arguing with a family member. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn't mean it’s a reflection of how they feel about you. When you let these types of emotions get involved it can turn into a full blown argument and those can have long lasting repercussions on a relationship.
5. Pick your battles. There are some people that will argue with you about anything and everything. You could come in to work and say the day is beautiful and your co-worker will comment and say ‘well I wouldn't say beautiful, it’s windy and cold to me.’ There is no reason to disagree with her/him or make any remark back. Sometimes people say things without filters or thinking and this is when you smile and let it go. Don’t let an argument rise from one of these silly occasions, save your energy and move on with your day.
6. Keep an open mind. You cannot have a civil disagreement with someone unless you are truly willing to consider their point of view. You may not end up agreeing with them (chances are you won’t but the goal is to come to some solution where you both feel at least slightly validated) but hopefully you come away with new knowledge that you may be able to use in the future.
7. Accept that you are not always right. Just because you feel a certain way about something doesn't mean it is the only right way. Accepting this may be difficult but once you come to terms with your own imperfections it can be much easier to accept others and come to a compromise everyone is happy with.
Make Every Disagreement a Learning Experience
Arguing or disagreeing with someone can be exhausting and you are going to lose at least half of your battles. However, what you don’t need to lose is your relationship or respect for the person. It is human nature to disagree, it is what makes us who we are, so embrace a good disagreement and try to turn it into a learning experience about yourself and the other person.
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