The Art of Disagreement

Over the years I have been in many verbal disagreements with other people and have realized that most of these conversations are inefficient and a waste of time. In order to make these conversations more useful I try to keep the following things in mind:

What is the person actually trying to say? Typically, people are so concentrated on getting their point across that they don't take the time to understand what the other person is saying, which usually leads to two people talking past each other on totally different subjects. It is important to start of with a good understanding of what the person is trying to say before offering a different perspective. Otherwise, you many not be able to address their specific problems or miss that you are actually in the wrong. Also, it is a lot easier to change before stating your own opinion.

Don't expect immediate change! People rarely change their opinion on the spot even if they are wrong, so don't expect them to. It takes time for someone to absorb what is being said and reflect on it. That being said don't assume that an argument that seems to end in futility actually does, only time will tell.

What is the purpose of the disagreement? Is the goal to convince them they are wrong? Is it to make them aware that there is a different perspective? Is it important for the person to change or is this just an interesting discussion? This question determines when to stop the conversation. Restating the same thing over and over again is rarely going to change someone's opinion, so don't waste time. Once you have adequately expressed yourself it is time to end the conversation.

Do you actually care about the person changing? We often resist saying important things because we are afraid of offending the person, however, we always have to keep in my mind what is best for them, not what is easiest for us. Being clear is important, especially when the stakes are high. This question also helps us choose the right communication method which will be most effective with the person.

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