Disagreements as uncomfortable as they might seem are actually normal and part of life. Disagreements may arise with one another frequently or infrequently. They may also rise for so many different reasons, stemming from different cultural backgrounds, beliefs and value systems, attitudes, ideas and desires, etc. Usually, when there is an inability to see past our own normative ideas and biases, these differences can lead to clashes. The truth of the matter is that disagreements happen to even the best of relationships, but the good news is that Disagreements should not necessarily be perceived or regarded as negative or as a bad thing inherently. Depending on the nature of the disagreement, they can actually help us learn and grow if we handle them the right way.

This guide will explore 7 key principles that can help us turn our disagreements into impactful lessons. We will learn how to navigate those tricky situations with kindness and understanding, just like sailing through choppy waters with a steady hand. So, are you ready to become a disagreement-resolution pro? Let us begin!

1. Embracing the Nature of Conflict

Not all disagreements are malicious though most malicious behaviour can lead to conflict. Conflicts can arise innocently due to misunderstanding, personal idiosyncrasies and also due to ignorance. I see this a lot and I have equally experienced this as I am sure many of us have. Conflicts generally arise through social, professional, and diplomatic interactions (or lack thereof) as it come with the territory of being human. After all, we all express ourselves uniquely, see the world through various coloured tinted lenses whether yellow, rose or pink, blue, black or purple. We even possess radically different ideas about the most common concepts and this more often than not can lead to clashes. These clashes can be insignificant, such as a disagreement over who gets to control the TV remote or what to make for dinner, or they can be seriously aggressive, like when people have totally different political views or religious beliefs.

The important thing is to understand that disagreements are bound to happen, and that is okay. By accepting this and not taking things personally, rule number 1, we can approach these situations with an open mind and a willingness to understand the other person’s point of view.

2. Acknowledging Difficulties

Working through disagreements is not always easy. There can be some tough hurdles to jump over. People might feel strongly about their opinions, and it can be hard to change their minds. Sometimes our own feelings get in the way too, making it even trickier.

But here is the good news: even though it can be challenging, working through disagreements can actually make us better listeners, improve our objectivity by looking for shared commonalities and in the process we become more understanding and tolerant people. By acknowledging that things might get a little tough, we can prepare ourselves to be brave and determined to find a solution. It is like a workout for our communication muscles!

3. Identifying Root Causes

Disagreements can grow from multiple offshoots and roots, much like a plant. Sometimes the roots are deeply embedded from not understanding each other clearly, from failure to practice empathy when someone forgets to make out time for a relationship consistently and a team member consistently drops the ball at the last minute and becomes highly unreliable leaving other members to pick up the pieces. Other times, the roots are from people being too proud to admit they might be wrong. And sometimes, the roots are because someone just does not care about the issue at all.

The key to fixing a disagreement is to figure out what the underlying reason for it is, by spending time to dig deep and pull up those roots to ‘get to the root of the problem’. Once we understand why we disagree, we can start to address the problem more decisively and make things better again which is sure to salvage or refresh a stressed out relationship!

4. Cultivating Self-Awareness

In the heat of a disagreement, it is important to be aware of ourselves, our behaviours, our ticks. This means understanding our own strengths and weaknesses, just like a superhero! For example, maybe you are really good at explaining your point of view, but you sometimes get a little loud or gesticulate too much which makes the other party nervous. Or, maybe you are a great listener, but you have a hard time speaking up for yourself.

By getting a better sense of understanding our nature, our weaknesses, our strengths, our triggers, we can navigate our disagreements with kindness and understanding. We will know when to stand our ground and explain our ideas clearly, and when to listen carefully to the other person’s perspective. It is all about finding a balance, like a team where everyone uses their skills to work together!

5. Knowing When to Disengage

Sometimes, disagreements get so heated that it is best to do a time out and take a break. It is like stepping back from a tug-of-war rope for a minute to catch your breath. This does not mean giving up, it just means taking a time out to calm down and figure out a better approach.

Knowing when to take a temporary or permanent break shows that you are smart and kind and certainly not weak. It helps you take care of yourself and creates a calmer environment where you can eventually work things out. It is akin to taking a step back before jumping into a pool , dip your toes in first gently- you want to make sure the water is okay before you dive in!

6. Disagreeing with Respect

Even though we might disagree with a counter party or friend or colleague or spouse, it certainly does not mean give us the right to be nasty and disrepectful! Just like teammates on a sports team, we can have different ideas and approaches but we must still treat each other with respect.

This means disagreeing without name-calling, swearing, yelling, accusatory statements or being mean and vindictive. Never go below the belt as it can escalate what should have otherwise been a minor disagreement and turn it into a full on feud. Lest we forget we all desire as human beings to be treated with respect and dignity. It is the golden rule.

As Michelle Obama once said when they go low, we go high.

So always remember that it is about giving both sides a chance to air their views, take turns to listen to the other person’s point of view, even if you do not agree with it. By being respectful, we show that we value the other person and their thoughts, even if they are different from our own. This helps keep things calm and makes it easier to find a solution that works for everyone.

7. Practicing Honesty and Kindness

In the heat of a disagreement, it is important to be both honest and kind. Imagine you are forging a new friendship – you want to be truthful about how you feel, but you also want to be friendly and understanding.

Honesty means being clear about what is bothering you, but without blaming or putting the other person down. Kindness means listening to their point of view and trying to see things from their perspective. By being both honest and kind, we can build trust and understanding with the other person. This makes it easier to work things out and become even better friends (or colleagues, siblings, etc.) in the long run!

By adhering to these principles, individuals and groups can navigate conflicts more effectively, potentially transforming them into opportunities for growth and positive change. Conflict management skills can be developed and improved over time with practice and reflection.

I hope you enjoyed this piece. Let’s see if you can put into practice some of the tips shared especially for the dispute resolution professionals amongst us or those who regularly work with teams, groups etc.

Thank you for your attention.

Until next time!!!!