If we are going to be honest, most of the arguments that we have in life are just like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck’s momentous argument “duck season vs. rabbit season” (look it up on YouTube if you’re not familiar). At some point in almost every argument we don’t even care or know what we are arguing about anymore, we just know that we are arguing. And we know that we are right. When that happens, the situation gets out of control.
In Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends & Influence People, he offers 9 suggestions of how to keep your disagreements from spiraling out of control.
- Welcome the disagreement. Perhaps this disagreement is your opportunity to be corrected before you make a mistake; be thankful if it is brought to your attention
- Avoid becoming defensive. Our first natural reaction in a disagreement is to be defensive. Be careful. Keep calm.
- Control your temper. Remember, you can measure the size of a person by what makes him or her angry.
- Listen first. Give the other person a chance to talk. Let them finish. Do not resist, defend or debate. Try to build bridges of understanding.
- Look for areas of agreement. When you have heard your opponents out, dwell first on the points and areas on which you agree.
- Be honest. Look for areas you can admit error and say so. Apologize for your mistakes. It will help disarm your opponents and reduce defensiveness.
- Promise to think over your opponent’s ideas and study them carefully. And mean it. The other person just may be right.
- Thank your opponents sincerely for their interest. Anyone who takes the time to disagree with you is interested in the same things you are. Think of them as people who really want to help you, and you may turn your opponents into friends.
- Postpone action to give both sides time to think through the problem. Suggest a later meeting, when all the facts may be brought to bear.
Resolving disagreements is about more than just shouting your conclusions louder than the other person; it’s about coming to a peaceful conclusion. Remember Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”