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Communicating Through Disagreements

We likely have all had a disagreement with someone in our life. As human beings, we have different life experiences; we grew up with different values, have different personalities, have different wants, and needs. With all of these differences, it is almost as if disagreements are bound to happen at one point or another. While disagreements may often lead to arguments, we need to be cognizant that it is okay to disagree with someone. What matters more is how we disagree. 


Don’t make it personal

When someone disagrees with our perspective, our initial instinct may be to get defensive, because we are taking it as a personal attack. Before continuing the conversation, we should challenge that instinct and ask ourselves if the person who is disagreeing is trying to hurt you. Likely, that answer is no. Let’s not forget, we have all come from different experiences and have different thoughts and feelings about things, and that is more than okay. 

Approach the Disagreement With Curiosity 

When we are in a disagreement with someone in our life, we may want to initially try to convince him or her that our view is correct, or spend most of the time attempting to feel heard within our perspective. This can often lead to arguments. Instead of focusing on yourself, approach the disagreement with a sense of curiosity. Work within the conversation to understand where the person is coming from, and how they came to have their perspective that is different from your own. 

Active Listening

A great way to approach the disagreement with curiosity is to engage in active listening. Active listening is a tool that forces us to listen to another person’s perspective, because we must communicate back to the other person what we had just heard from them. In this tool of listening, we have the option of listening with full curiosity and hearing it from their perspective, instead of thinking about our own, or what we want to say next. 

Validate their Point of View

After engaging in active listening, it is important to validate the other person’s perspective, even if you still disagree with it. Validating the other person’s perspective does not say that you now agree with it; it only communicates that you understand where they are coming from. An example of validating their perspective can sound like, “While I still disagree with your perspective, I can see why you felt that way.”

Don’t engage in the Four Horsemen & use the Antidotes

In previous blogs, I have written about Dr. John Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and their Antidotes. The Four Horsemen are all attempts at communication within conflict; they are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or stonewalling. 

Instead of engaging in these four forms of communication when it is your turn to speak, use the Antidotes of the Four Horsemen. 

  • I Statements – engaging in I statements can be helpful when communicating your perspective to the other person. Instead of using “you” statements that are more about them, you are focusing the conversation on yourself.
  • Culture of Appreciation – recognizing within the disagreement that they do not mean to attack you, and find gratitude for who they are
  • Taking Personal Responsibility – if you engaged in any transgression within the disagreement, take personal responsibility for it instead of getting defensive
  • Self-Soothing – take a break from the disagreement to bring yourself back to center, and come back to it when you feel ready

Disagreements can be tough. If you struggle communicating through disagreements, it may be helpful to connect with a therapist. Contact Symmetry Counseling today to get in contact with one of our talented clinicians. 

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