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.


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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If Your Fall Hookup Is More Trick Than Treat, You Need To Dump Him

Don't be afraid to say "Boy, bye"


With cuffing season almost upon us, it may seem tempting to start finding a serious relationship, snuggling in closer to the casual fling you've been hooking up with, and doing everything in your power to make sure you don't go into the holiday season #SingleAsAPringle.

However, there are some situations in which it's way more worth it to not take that next step, or even to keep up the path you're on with the person you're seeing. If you're not having fun the majority of the time, or if staying involved with this person is causing you more stress than it's worth, it's time to let him go.

Fall breakups can happen for a number of reasons. If he doesn't respect you and just sees you as a sex partner, unless it's mutual, of course, this isn't really someone you want to bring with you into the holidays. Think about it. Do you really want to buy a Christmas gift for someone who won't even buy you dinner? No, no you don't.

If your fall schedule is getting jam-packed with back-to-school and every other commitment and you won't have time for romance, especially if he doesn't understand that and keeps pressuring you to spend time with him anyway, it may be time to say goodbye. While summer is a great time for fun, low-stress flings, fall is the time you're going to either want someone who'll stand by you and understand the realities of day-to-day life or it may be better to just focus on yourself instead.

If your entire relationship exists in the basement of a frat party or in his crusty twin size bed, if he's always pressuring you to shave all your body hair or to perform some sexual act you're not comfortable with, if he won't introduce you to his friends or take you out on a real date, it's time to decide that you deserve better.

Wouldn't you rather snuggle up with a puppy or a genuinely nice guy as the seasons change? I know I would.

Carrying a relationship into the fall is about so much more than having someone to snuggle with when the weather gets cold. There's no room in the season for fuckboys and anyone else who makes your life a nightmare. Honestly, the only nightmare any of us should have to deal with is the fun one for Halloween. But if the guy you're with is a nightmare or more of a trick than a treat, don't be afraid to say "Boy, bye."

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How to Argue Better

Arguing is an intimate act. Treat it like one.


Arguments are an inevitable component of most any intimate relationship. Our emotions can run ahead of our words, our opinions clash, expectations crossfire.

Unfortunately, more often than not, arguments may feel counterproductive. They leave us with that trademark sour taste. In some cases, they can result in the end of a relationship. Arguments can be thick with nastiness, leaving verbal and emotional carnage in their wake.

The good news is that arguments are normal. In romantic relationships, they can even be healthy, provided they are handled gracefully by both parties.

As someone who dislikes confrontation in most cases, I've taken a fair bit of time to figure out how I want to argue—and how I can get rid of that sour taste after any argument. Here are a few tips about arguing more wisely and well.

Keep it Private

Arguing is an intimate act. Arguments can show us at our worst—we may yell, cry, scream, indulge private grievances in a messy and slobbery way. They can also open up seams of incredibly sensitive vulnerabilities.

Some arguments can be empowering for this reason, as they can give voice to things that need to be addressed.

All of this means, however, that better arguing occurs behind closed doors. The public, your friends, other family members—all of these people don't need to be a part of such intimacy. Public arguing can even be a manipulative tactic, forcing a partner into silence due to the shame of such a display.

If your partner, friend, or family member wants to have an argument, ask kindly and firmly if you can do so in a private space. Indicate that you want to do so to ensure that everyone can feel fully heard, without the ears of other people who should not be privy to the argument's subject matter.

Take a Breath Before Responding

It's so easy to get riled up by what another person says, particularly in the thick of an argument. You may be tempted to interrupt your partner, override their words, or launch into a response without thinking.

If you can, take a breath before every response you give. Take several deep breaths. Bring yourself back to the present moment.

Such small acts of grounding can give you the clarity you need in the midst of crowding emotions. These can even end an argument sooner and help you stay calm in the face of challenging statements or even insults.

Listen More Than You Speak

Much like deep breathing in the midst of an argument, listening can be a key strategy in effectively navigating an argument. Try to give your partner the podium more than you give it to yourself.

Yes, it is important that you get to say your fair share. But taking a listening stance can remove you emotionally from the situation. It demonstrates respect for your partner's opinion and feelings.

It also can inject little bursts of objectivity into your conversation. Taking an objective stance can help you respond more holistically to your partner's complaints and perspectives, automatically giving the argument a more positive spin.

Talk About it Later

Individuals especially prone to swatting conflict away are less likely to discuss an argument after the fact. They pretend it didn't happen, or they brood in its ugly wake for days.

When a door slams, the argument isn't necessarily over. Healthy arguments have closure. They result in a check-in or two when both parties are feeling a bit better and can discuss how to move forward from what was said earlier.

Sometimes these check-ins can result in more honesty than the arguments themselves. In this sense, arguments function as steam valves for what really needs to be discussed.

Above all, try not to fear arguments. They do not signify the end of a relationship or lack of effort on your part to make a partnership work. They can be treated mindfully, just like anything else. Embrace them when they come. And don't forget to breathe.

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