How to Talk to People Who Don't Agree with You

How to Talk to People Who Don't Agree with You

These difficult conversations can be the linchpin of meaningful change.

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I hate to reiterate a truism that is nearly become cliché: we live in divided times. I feel these divides when I brew tea in the morning, scroll through Instagram, and chat with peers. I especially feel them when I visit my family or read the news.

These divides appear most painfully (and sadly) in conversations. Words are more powerful now than ever before, and they are leaving an alarming trail of debris and damage behind them.

Divided times mean more difficult conversations. It's easy to sidestep these conversations; I'm guilty of avoiding challenging chats. (I'd prefer to read a book and drink espresso, you know?)

Yet these difficult conversations are urgent. They may be the linchpin of meaningful change. They may also be the linchpin of personal change and community growth. We need to talk about what's going on out there, and especially with those "from the other side."

Keep these things in mind as you go about preparing to have those tough talks with people who don't quite share your perspective.

Drop the "us vs. them" mentality.

Conversations about the pros and cons of vaping, who should be president next, or abortion (eep!) can easily create "sides." These camps of support or opposition are ultimately not helpful for anything beyond political polls. They can be fundamentally divisive when brought into a conversation.

It can be tempting to join these camps once the other party begins to speak. Do what you can to abandon this mentality, however. Ask the other party to do so as well—respectfully and kindly.

You may struggle to step into this mental space of neutrality. The next few tips can help you lay down this boxing-ring mentality more easily.

Take a breath before you speak—every time.

I made the same point in my post about productive arguing. Having conversations with people who don't share your perspective can feel like arguments. They may hover over vast wells of emotion. They may become an argument.

To ensure that your conversation doesn't tip so closely into a shouting match, focus on your breath.

Take a deep belly breath before you speak, and try to do so every time you open your mouth. Be sure the other party is done speaking before you respond, and ask if he or she is finished before doing so.

A single breath can give you grounding, disintegrate any latent spiky emotion (anger, fear), and help you speak more slowly.

Ask more questions.

I love questions. They are vehicles for productive discussion and they can flatter, in a way, the person you're conversing with. Questions give you a chance to catch your breath and your partner to explore their perspective further.

Both can be valuable, especially if you're feeling resistant to or triggered by something the other person has said. The more time your conversation partner has to really outline their reasoning, the more insight you can have into their perspective—which can neutralize triggering emotions and even bring some empathy into the mix.

Ask considerate, open questions, such as "Can you elaborate on that point more?" or "Can you give me an example?" These questions show your interest in learning more and can be delivered sans emotion.

End the conversation with agreement.

After a difficult conversation, things may feel a bit rocky. Try to smooth out these normal rocks by ending the conversation in the spirit of agreement.

This may mean changing the subject. It may mean asking your partner: "What can we agree on here?" Mention that you'd like to close the conversation on brighter terms. This means that the last word will be a positive, shared one—you may even go out to ice cream after!

A lot of what I discuss here has to do with active listening and presence. It can be hard to channel these habits into a prickly conversation, so even if you're only able to integrate these tips for part of a discussion, bravo!

Here's to productive conversations—and the positive change they enforce.

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You Should Not Be Ashamed Of Seeking Help

It really is something that needs to be addressed.

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In today's generation, it seems as if people can either be the happiest as they can be or incredibly sad and unhappy. There are some people who are living their lives and doing very well but more often than not, there are people who struggle with life and find it to be difficult. I will throw myself into the second category listed above. What I am saying is that people like me have their own inner demons and issues to battle.

There is nothing wrong with seeking professional help, but it's also fine to neglect help and deal with problems head-on. Sometimes people just don't want help and develop the idea that no one can help them…which is also fine. However, no matter how people look at it, people will always deal with their darkest moment.

I'm not writing this to tell people how to cope with their problems, but I am writing this to help people to understand that they are not the only ones who are hurting. They are not the only ones who are in pain. They are not the only ones who may say evil and negative things about themselves. This is a simple and basic understanding that we are only people and we deal with real-world problems.

Think back to your high school days. What were some of the things you always looked forward to? The football game every Friday night, Homecoming, the cliques you always hung out with, Prom, or even an assignment or exam you were fussing over and studying hard for. None of those things were the case for me in high school, especially my sophomore year. I would not say nice things about myself, I would not compliment myself, whenever someone complimented me I would always shrug it off and give a defeatist response to them, and I felt isolated from everyone.

There were consistent patterns of behavior that I would have where I would be extremely happy one day and then extremely sad the next. I would be the nicest person to all my friends and teachers and then the next day I would be harsh and mean to them.

The reasons why I had these problems was because I dealt with a heavy stress load of depression, and I still do today. I was also grieving over a personal loss of mine but never summoned the courage to tell anyone what I was going through. As a result, no one took me seriously and they began to eliminate me from any aspect of their lives. That resulted in alienation and isolation for me. Sophomore was my best academic year, but I was socially awkward and introverted.

As mentioned, I said there is nothing wrong with getting help from a professional in the field, but it's also valid to avoid seeking professional help. It was the case for me because I neglected help from anyone. If you want to try and do what I did, I won't encourage you to do so but depression is a state of mind that effects someone mentally. It may be fine to not get help, but getting help would be in your best interest to make sure you are content with life.

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6 Signs You're in the Right Relationship

You can determine if your current relationship is best for the both of you with some reflection.

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There's one burning question nearly every woman asks herself a few weeks, months, or years after dating someone.

"Is this right?"

It's easier to turn to friends, loved ones, and advice columns to answer this question. It's even easier to make this judgment call based off of outside opinions rather than deep intuition.

The most important opinion, however, is yours. You can determine if your current relationship is best for the both of you with some reflection.

Check out the list below. If your relationship fulfils all seven stipulations, keep going! Less than four? Time for a talk and some inner guidance.

You Are Fueled to Do What You Love

Take a minute to write down the things that you truly, deeply love. These can be hobbies, interests, people, or activities.

If you're struggling to come up with something, write down what always makes you smile (without fail). Write down the things you would do if you had one day of unlimited freedom.

Don't be shy with this list. Write down everything!

Now consider how your partner either enables you to pursue these things or limits you. Do you feel more fueled to do these things, or less fueled? It can be helpful to recall anything your partner has said about these pursuits in the past.

For example, does your partner seem actively committed to making sure you do more of what you love? Has your list expanded because of your partner? Have you done these things together?

Consider the flipside, too. Do you help your partner pursue their passions?

If you conclude that your partner (for the most part) fuels your passions for life and beyond, this is a good sign. It indicates a relationship that prioritizes both parties' well-being and flourishing.

You Are Learning

Partners learn from each other in a variety of ways. Your partner may teach you about boating, for example, or how to live with compassion. You may teach your partner about active listening and cooking vegan dishes.

Healthy relationships strike an appropriate balance between learning and teaching. Unfortunately, it's easier said than done to ensure that you are learning (as well as teaching).

If your partner is doing all the teaching, this imbalance could lead to an unhealthy power dynamic. It may diminish your sense of self-worth or empowerment.

On the flip side, if you do all the teaching, you may not be growing as an individual. Personal growth enables relationship growth.

Brainstorm the things you actively learn from your partner. Do you both have equal opportunities to be teacher and student? If there is an imbalance, have a conversation with your partner to address it.

More extreme imbalances could be the seeds for an unhealthy or even abusive relationship down the road.

Your Relationship is Not a Dependency Relationship

All relationships have a natural sprinkling of dependency. Relationships, after all, involve at least two people at the helm of a lifeboat.

It can be all too easy, however, to be overly dependent on your partner or lover. Over dependency often takes the form of relying on the other person for happiness, motion, and well-being.

Some people view relationships as means to certain ends, such as marriage, money, self-worth, or sex. Others may use a relationship as a linchpin for unnecessary change: career swerves, botox injections, abandonment of what they truly love.

Think about your relationship's dependencies. Consider your life without your partner. What would it look like? What would you look like?

This mental exercise can help you understand the nature of your reliance on people you care about—not just your partner. Self-reliance is a precursor to confidence and greater self-awareness.

The more dependent you are in a relationship, the lower your odds are of building healthy self-reliance.

You Still Have Friends

When you're head-over-heels for someone, it's easy to forget about the rest of the world. Suddenly, your calendar is filled with your lover. You may have trouble focusing at work or prioritizing others.

It's very common for some women in relationships to neglect their friends and community outside of their lovers. This is especially the case at the start of a relationship.

Some partners may be jealous or abusive. They are more likely to isolate or prevent women from being close to certain friends or loved ones.

Healthy relationships should not keep you from your friends in any way. If you still have a viable network of friendships and connections while in a relationship, this can indicate a healthy life-to-partner balance. If not, it's time to re-evaluate.

You Both Feel Heard

In any relationship, it's essential for both parties to have a valid voice. Respectful relationships incorporate a strong model of listening and responding to issues, feelings, and opinions.

Do you feel that your voice is always heard in your relationship? What does your partner do to ensure that you feel heard?

Consider the other perspective. Do you ensure that your partner's voice is validated and respected?

If you aren't sure how to answer these questions, take the time to bring an important issue to your partner's attention. Notice how they respond to your thoughts. Do they actively listen or appear distracted? Do they offer advice or solutions? Are they likely to follow up later?

It is possible for some women to feel "unheard" due to miscommunication. However, if you are feeling increasingly voiceless, or if you feel that you are powerless to change this, this could suggest an unhealthy power dynamic.

You Aren't Compromising Too Much

Every relationship requires some sort of compromise. You may not like the fact that your partner leaves the toilet seat up all the time. Your partner may not like your taste in music.

Healthy compromises safeguard against looking for the "perfect" partner. After all, searching for a superhero is often a vain endeavour.

Nonetheless, if you find yourself compromising too much with things that you care about, this could be a red flag. This is especially the case if you are frequently giving up on passions, other relationships, and goals for the sake of your partner.

Have a conversation with your partner about compromising. What have you compromised on, and what are you unwilling to compromise on?

Practice mindful compromising in order to develop a relationship built on trust and mutual respect.

No two relationships are alike. But it is possible to tell the difference between a healthy, balanced partnership and one that is unhealthy or unfulfilling.

It's important for you to feel heard, validated, and inspired in your relationship. Both people should feel fueled to do what they love and free to express themselves. Most importantly, healthy relationships flourish when both parties are enabled to flourish.

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