In every relationship, personal or professional, there will always be some disagreement. You will never find an environment where people always agree and that understand each other. That's fantasy, not reality.
As a leadership coach I spend a lot of time working with my clients helping them deal with breakdowns in communication--and truly, a lot of disagreements amount to a breakdown in communication.
Here are seven very simple but effective ways I've learned over the years for dealing productively with disagreement.
1. Seek to understand. People tend to disagree when they don't understand each other. When one party is so busy wanting to be heard and doesn't spend any time trying to understand, disagreement is right around the corner. When you come to an understanding that most of us are more alike then we are different, you can begin to tolerate and accommodate--even appreciate--a different point of view. So first, seek to understand and appreciate. That does not mean you have to agree, just that you're open to hearing them out.
2. Look beyond your own triggers. Many disagreements stem from someone being triggered by something that's been said. What's triggered is usually fear and awareness of one's limitations. Whatever may have happened in your past, you have to find a way to get past your triggers and see that you're in a new situation with a person who doesn't mean you harm.
3. Look for similarities, not differences. From working with my clients, I've found that the best way to begin resolving a disagreement is to look for common ground. When you concentrate on differences the space grows wider, but when you seek out what you have in common it helps bridge the gap. The next time you find yourself in a disagreement, look for a point of agreement--even if you have to stretch.
4. Be a good listener. In any disagreement, it's important for both parties to be heard. And that means it's important to be a good listener-- curious, open minded and nonjudgmental. A good listener gives their full attention, asks for clarification when necessary, and can listen to different opinions without becoming defensive or argumentative. The best way to listen is to be silent. That's when you can learn.
5. Take responsibility for your own feelings. Especially in heated disagreements, it's easy to start making accusations, laying blame and making excuses. To work through it, you have to be honest with yourself and take full responsibility for your own feelings, and for your interpretations that may have contributed to the breakdown.
6. Make a commitment. In times of intense disagreement, it's not uncommon for one or both parties to have one foot out the door. If you want to truly get to the heart of the matter, make sure the other person understands your commitment to the relationship. Even if you have an issue with the behavior, you have to keep that separate.
7. Use positive language. No one wants to be called names or to be called out in a negative way, or to hear all the bad things they have done in the past. If you are speak in negatives, you will hurt the person and shut them down. if you can bring positivity to what you are trying to say, it's far more likely that you'll be heard, and that the disagreement can be resolved more quickly and easily.
Disagreements are a way of life, but they don't have to cause havoc. Try these techniques and work it out--faster, better and quicker.