Posts

If you have been to a wedding recently, you might have been asked to write a note of advice for the newlyweds.  Mine is always the same – master the art of disagreement.

Agree to Disagree

Agreeing to disagree is an important skill in any relationship, personal or professional.  There are times when we need to listen to the other person’s opinion, respectfully express our own, and recognize when the discussion is not going to change anyone’s mind.

When to Try a Different Approach

This can be a challenge for those of us who are able to use our powers of persuasion quite effectively most of the time.  It might be worth considering a different approach when:

  • The issues aren’t black or white – exploring the gray area requires seeing the other person’s perspective
  • Emotions are strong – calling a truce when things get heated can help us avoid saying things we will regret later
  • The stakes are high – instead of creating a win/lose situation, honoring both sides can help maintain the relationship

That is the secret to the art of disagreement:  focusing on the relationship instead of winning the argument.  What if everyone tried that for a change?

The speaker’s message was clearly meant for me. “Don’t bury the hatchet with the handle sticking out.” I was convinced that I had buried the hatchet in a very painful disagreement with a family member, but this advice made me realize that I still knew where the handle was. I hadn’t completely forgiven this person and it would be much too easy to grab that handle and resurrect all those negative emotions.

Ending Conflict

This concept originated with two Native American chiefs who buried their hatchets when they agreed to end a conflict. Think of all the energy required to constantly butt heads or avoid someone. Better to spend your energy burying the hatchet and the handle.

How to Start

  •  Forgiving – acknowledge both parts in the conflict and commit to forgiving the other person unconditionally.
  •  Identifying what you have in common – a shared goal or a common adversary, perhaps a competitor.
  •  Taking responsibility – “I would really like for us to find a way to work together more effectively. What can I do to make that easier?”
  •  Accepting neutral – turning an enemy into a friend doesn’t happen overnight, but getting them from negative to neutral is a good first step. Just don’t stop there.

I invite you to ask yourself whether you might be holding onto something – would it be better off buried?