How To Respectfully Disagree With Someone

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In a conflict-filled world, and we have lost the ability to disagree. No one knows how to respectfully disagree with someone anymore. 

We are good at fighting, name-calling, and dismissing anybody who holds a different opinion. But, we are terrible at disagreeing.

Disagreeing is a skill set. Very few people have learned these skills in school, at home, or at work. But, learning how makes you smarter.

RELATED: 10 Ways To Be Less Judgmental Of People You Disagree With

Learn how to respectfully disagree with someone

It's relatively easy to develop an opinion these days. You can pick one up anywhere from any media source. It’s easy to get emotionally committed to your opinion when you realize how many people agree with you.

It feels good to belong to a group of like-minded people. It’s also easy to confuse your sense of self with your point of view about facts and perspectives.  

That’s when you get offended and your mind goes on vacation.

If you want to know how to respectfully disagree without being disagreeable, you have to learn how to:

1. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying, feeling, and not saying.

2. Stay calm so your emotions don’t interfere with understanding. (This is also called amygdala hijack, losing your ability to think clearly.)

3. Care about what the other person is saying so you can really pay attention. Imagine what the other person feels about their opinion or why they came to that opinion (also known as empathy). And, if needed, ask for clarification.

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Allow your children to disagree with you.

This is not an easy process. Some cultures simply don’t permit disagreement with authority figures and think of it as disrespectful.

On the other hand, some cultures value disagreement as a path to developing a deeper insight into a situation or solving a problem.

Traditional Judaism often considers disagreeing as a kind of sacrament — a way to compare different points of view and hopefully come to a consensus and deeper insight.

Jackie Congedo from the  Jewish Federation of Cincinnati says that some Jewish rules for debate include:

1. Don’t run away from arguments

2. Don’t worry about being wrong- but be informed

3. Examine every angle, even the ones that don’t seem valid to you

4. Respect your opponent

5. When things get too intense, give it a rest

How to disagree without being disagreeable. 

But, disagreeing also forces a person to imagine a different perspective, take different facts into account, rearrange the facts that they previously knew, and possibly come to a different conclusion.

It also forces a person to take their opponent seriously even if they don’t like what they’re hearing.

Learning to change your mind forces you to hold different viewpoints simultaneously while also staying calm. This is kind of like tightrope walking.

If you are a parent trying to let your child disagree with you, you have some serious teaching and learning to do, especially if your parents didn’t let you disagree.

Tell them to calm down, take deep breaths, and speak slowly. Tell them you can see how upset they are but you can’t understand what they’re saying until they calm down.

This is the part where you have to keep your amygdala from getting hijacked. (As in, "Do it because I said so. I’m your parent.")

Once your young person has clearly expressed their point of view, repeat it to make sure you understand. This repetition has a calming effect.

Try saying something like, "Let’s try to look at this from a couple of other angles." 

You might even want to express your point of view but wait a while to do that. You are still the power figure and the immediate impulse is to fight back.

"Let’s think of a couple of ways to solve this problem. Is there any solution that makes sense to you?"

The ability to compare and contrast is an essential skill for clear thinking and problem-solving

You may have to learn these skills yourself. If all your friends agree with you about serious issues, you may want to find ways to talk to people who disagree with you.

Learning how to disagree is a process that takes practice.

If you’ve been wondering lately about the reasons why school boards are tearing themselves to pieces over Critical Race Theory (which nobody seems to understand) or that people are yelling obscenities at public officials or shooting people for no apparent reason, the inability to disagree is a huge part of the issue.

The rest of it is a strong sense that anybody who has a different perspective is a danger to you. People who do these things generally aren’t very good at managing their emotions either. It's because many of us have forgotten how to respectfully disagree with someone else. 

Remember, you are not your ideas. You are a person who has ideas.

If somebody else has different ideas, they deserve respect. They are human. We all want respect.

If you disagree, remember to organize your thoughts, stay calm and listen carefully. Remember how to respectfully disagree with someone. 

You will probably be surprised by the results.

As of now, I only yell a the television, which is relatively harmless.

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Jane Fried is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Life Coach, and a person who listens with empathy and without judgment. You can find her at Learning With Mind And