When there's bitter debate over everything from politics to whether businesses should be open or shut down, is it possible to disagree with someone and still get along? Can you share a workplace, a friendship, or a family event without it turning into a shouting match?
The answer is definitely yes, says New Age guru and meditation teacher Deepak Chopra. In a recent New York Times story, he laid out some simple steps for keeping the workplace and holiday dinner table conflict-free. Here are the first few recommendations.
1. Consider saying nothing.
Just because you disagree with someone doesn't mean you have to talk about it. Chopra says that the only good reason to discuss your disagreement is if you use it as the starting point in a negotiation. If your intention is to "win" the argument, prove the other person wrong, or persuade that person to your point of view, your conversations will "devolve into stubborn, angry arguments," he says. And some viewpoints are too entrenched to argue with. For instance, someone who still refuses to wear a mask nine months into the pandemic won't be persuaded otherwise by anything you have to say.
If saying nothing or walking away from a potential argument leaves you feeling angry -- and it might -- Chopra has some advice: "Sit quietly with eyes closed, take some deep breaths, and center your attention on your heart. Continue until the residual anger dissipates."
2. Begin by listening.
It's common to want to start a discussion by explaining your own position. But Chopra recommends first taking the time to listen to whatever the other person has to say. "If you're not aware of what is going on in their mind, in their life, in their relationships, in their personal experience of everyday reality, where is the solution?" he asks. So take the time to just listen until you really understand who they are and what's important to them. Following this step also makes it much less likely that your disagreement will descend into an argument.
3. Learn the other person's values.
Chopra says one of the most effective ways to get to a constructive conversation is to ask the other person what is most meaningful to them. It's why he sometimes encourages world leaders in conflict to talk to one another about their parents or their childhoods.
Your goal should be to find the other person's core beliefs, and share yours, which may be deeper than questions of religion or politics. "They fit the description 'Speak your truth,'" Chopra says.
4. Pause before you respond.
Once you've listened to what the other person has to say, you may feel strongly tempted to jump in with your own beliefs and views. Instead, pause for a moment. A quick reaction will probably be your ego talking, Chopra says. What he calls "the ego response" is likely to be one of four things: "Nice and manipulative, nasty and manipulative, stubborn and manipulative, and playing the victim and manipulative," he says.
Instead, use your pause to move past that first ego response, and try to answer the other person with "insight, intuition, inspiration, creativity, vision, higher purpose, or authenticity integrity," he says.
5. Resist black-and-white thinking.
"You're either with me or you're against me." Chopra cites statements like these -- often heard from world leaders -- as examples of the kind of black-and-white thinking that can escalate any conflict. The truth is most issues, especially if they're at all complex, can't be defined by a simple with-me-or-against-me or good-versus-evil viewpoint. Things are almost always more nuanced than that. It's within these nuances that you may find ideas and principles on which you can both agree.