Have you ever been in a disagreement, debate, or argument that just seems to be going around in circles? Are you in one right now with a spouse, co-worker, friend that’s creating tension and division in your relationship? If they could just see things from your perspective, they would understand how much better your solution is. These are a few tools that have served me well in coming to an agreeable solution in work and personal relationships when tension arises.
>>create some space
When opposing positions are not resolving, creating some space can make a lot of difference how things move forward. Suggest a short break away from the issue. Focus on another activity that occupies your mind for a short time. Don’t immediately do something that occupies your body, but leaves your mind able to focus on the issue – otherwise you’re not really creating space away from the issue.
>>write a letter
Sometimes writing a letter can make all the difference in the world. It allows each person to consider and express their thoughts and feelings in a more complete and sequential way. It can get the whole issue on the tabe without the interruption of debating each point as it appears in a dialogue. Be honest but humble. Use “I” statements to express how you feel and think. Do not try to state the other person’s position or make assumptions about them. Focus on expressing only your thoughts and feelings. Make sure there are no “always/never” statements. Stick to ONE main issue. Don’t try to solve everything. Take a short break then read it again to make sure you are clear, honest, and not exaggerating.
>>remove it from the spotlight
It can be helpful to find a point that you agree on. Restart the conversation from that central point of unity, then discover where and why your opinions diverge. Another thing you can do to remove it from the spotlight is to change the subject. Make a decision to focus on something that you like or admire about the other person and turn the conversation to that for a while. This is not to pretend the disagreement doesn’t exist – this is to ensure that the issue does not define the relationship or your whole perception of the other person. Speaking your genuine appreciation for a person without hesitation can change the dynamic of a whole relationship.
>>recognize that it may not be solved
It is possible for people to disagree and still have a healthy, functional relationship. If both positions are well-established and have significant merits, it may take years for an opinion or belief to change – or it might never change. Often opposing positions are not mutually exclusive, and simply changing your thinking from “either/or” to a “both/and” perspective can bring a satisfying compromise resolution.
>>try it on
Really listen. Remove your stake in the conversation to help you hear the other person. With each of these tips, it is important to be prayerful, humble, and have an open heart. Decide what it would look like if the other person is right, before you respond. Sometimes it has taken me a decade to realize that I was wrong. So now, I start any argument considering what it would mean 10 years down the road if they are right. The other person may not be correct, but I still need to hear them clearly and “try it on.”
What is your best tip for changing the dynamic of an argument?