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You Are So Wrong!

  • November 4, 2021
  • Written by Community Futures Meridian

We live in a polarized world. In the U.S., the political divide is bitter. Republicans and Democrats are divided on many major issues, including climate change, the economy, racial inequity, law enforcement, gun control, abortion, and international relations—the list goes on. There is so much to argue about. Across the globe, we have a sector of the community that is against having the COVID-19 vaccine, and a percentage believe there is no such thing as COVID and that it is all a conspiracy. Then there is religion, another fertile ground for disagreement.

In Canada, we just went through a federal election, and it was not hard to witness people vehemently denigrating one leader or another. Anger, rage, violent language, threats, and more were commonplace. You probably experienced it personally when drawn into a family argument where a friend or family member criticized the leader of the party you support.

Arguments can erupt over just about anything. People have strong opinions about newsworthy topics such as the LGBTQ (or LGBTQIA2S+) community, veganism, legalizing marijuana, fake news, and GMOs. It’s not hard to come face to face with someone whose opinion you find insulting or just plain out to lunch.

In business, that can happen with customers, clients, employees, suppliers, business partners—your next argument is just around the corner. So, how do you deal with someone with whom you vehemently disagree? Here are ten tips on how to handle those diplomatically difficult encounters without resorting to calling the other person a complete idiot.

  1. Always be open and willing to rethink your position. If you have a closed mind and are firmly entrenched in your opinion, you have nowhere to go, and the discussion will immediately become an argument that you can’t win. Beginning every debate from a neutral point of view, and suspending your firmly held beliefs, will serve you well in any heated interaction.
  2. Keep calm. Think about it for a second; when was the last time you changed your mind about something because someone shouted at you and told you that you were an idiot, stupid, and a know-nothing-moron?
  3. Don’t swear or insult the other person. If you lose your cool, you will not only lose the moral high ground, you will regret it later.
  4. If you feel you are losing your temper and control, hit the pause button. Admit you are getting angry and suggest you revisit the discussion/argument at a later date. Once you lose your temper, there is never going to be a positive outcome.
  5. Give the other person the right to have their opinion. Listen deeply, and explore the other person’s point of view. You will not only understand it better and have more information on which to base your rebuttal, but they are also far more likely to give you the courtesy of listening to your argument.
  6. See through the emotion. Look for the message behind the words they are uttering, not how they are saying them. Understand precisely what they mean, not just what they say. Summarize back to them what you heard. You might be surprised to learn that there is a big difference between what they said, the way they said it, and the way you received it.
  7. Discover where their fear lies. When faced with someone who has extreme views and opinions, often there is an underlying fear. We all have fears, so make this something you have in common. You might ask, “What is your biggest concern?” Or, “What frightens you most about this situation?” This question will encourage them to open up and put the hyperbole in perspective. Discovering where they feel vulnerable and sharing your vulnerability will bring you closer to common ground.
  8. Begin by accepting that they genuinely feel the way they do and don’t mean any harm to anyone. Sure, they may have said they’d like to see some harm come to the prime minister, but it’s almost certainly just an emotional outburst. In most cases, they want the same world you want; they just see a different route to achieving the same objective. Step back and try to see things from their perspective.
  9. Never talk down to anyone. There is no upside to this tactic.
  10. Share your sources and ask the other person for theirs. If theirs are questionable, and they find yours suspect, discuss checking out a source of information on which you can both agree and, together, check out what it says.

Disagreeing with someone can be healthy as long as you don’t let it degenerate into emotional warfare. That does no one any good.

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