Discussions can be healthy, since they have the potential to build relationships and result in a “win” for everyone. On the other hand, arguments are rarely good. Why? They are forceful attempts to change another person’s point of view, and thus result in a “winner” and a”loser.”Arguments always cause some damage, even if you “win.” The next time you find yourself involved in a conflict of opinion, use these guidelines to make it a DISCUSSION—resolving the issue while building the relationship.
Welcome the Disagreement. The other person may have a perspective you haven’t considered, so be thankful for it. Maybe this is your chance to be corrected before making a mistake.
Distrust Your First Inclination to Defend Yourself. Defensiveness is often a natural reaction. But be careful—when you justify yourself, it’s hard to change your position later. Plus, you’ll miss the benefit of the other person’s ideas.
Control Your Temper. Getting angry always makes communication harder, not easier. So simmer down before you blow your top.
Listen First. Give your “opponent” a chance to talk. Don’t defend or debate. Build bridges of understanding, not barriers of misunderstanding.
Look for Areas of Agreement. Dwell on areas where you agree. This establishes common ground, helping you find a solution good for both of you.
Be Honest. Look for areas where you can admit error, then do it. This disarms others and reduces their defensiveness.
Promise to Think Over Their Ideas. Tell the person that you will consider his point of view, and actually do it. He may be right, after all.
Thank Them Sincerely for Their Desire to Help. Most people who take time to disagree with you are interested in positive results, the same as you are. Welcome that.
Postpone Action So You Both Can Think Through the Problem. If need be, suggest another meeting. To prepare, ask yourself some hard questions about your “side,” and focus on a mutually beneficial solution.
Be Willing to Agree to Disagree. Sometimes you may need to accept your difference of opinion and move on. Be flexible whenever possible. Follow Thomas Jefferson’s advice: “In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current.”