Relationships: How To Talk To People You Disagree With

Talking to someone you disagree with. Image from

The art of good communication begins with us listening more than we talk. However, when we talk to people we disagree with, the line of communication can take a different turn. Sometimes it gets to a point where we might sever relationships because we feel attacked. The following practices illustrate mindfulness when talking to people you disagree with.

  1. Practice empathy.

Patience is a good practice in attaining empathy. It gives you the tolerance to hear somebody else out, without judging them right off the bat. Patience also gives you the calm you need in order not to get your ideas across without getting emotional. In an era where we not only communicate face to face but also through the internet, practising patience can help us reduce cyberbullying, creating a community that encourages people with different ideas. Here’s how to use social media for good.

The advantage we have with social media over in-person conversation is that we have a buffer of time to decide if we should lash back on people we don’t disagree with or let go. We have the control to type and not hit send.

Man strangled by cyberbullies. image from
  1. Do not assume ill intent

We are a product of our beliefs, past experiences and the decisions we make. Some of our past experiences might lead us to believe that people will always harbour ill intent towards us. This tends to block out reasoning as to why other people might have certain views and we end up not understanding that just like us, they are also shaped by their experiences.

Therefore, to give your mind a stronger framework for dialogue rather than assuming bad intent, start from a point of neutrality or assume there’s good in someone you don’t agree with. This forms a basis of open communication and importantly, tolerance of different views from different people.

  1. Ask questions

When we ask questions we give a chance to other people to express themselves. Through their answers, we can tell from what angle they perceive the issue and this broadens our understanding. From there we can respond effectively, bearing in mind the ideological divide that exists between us and mirroring their concerns in our responses. Questions help us map out any disconnect between our different point of views and hence enabling us to present effective arguments.

A downside to this would be asking too many questions that might make the other person feel stupefied and agitated.

People asking questions when disagreeing. Image from
  1. Develop an open mind

Due to our strong beliefs and the information we have on certain matters, we might assume that the people we disagree with should hold the same notions as we do.

However, if this was the case, wouldn’t everyone in the world think the same? Therefore, to communicate or persuade someone you disagree with, develop an open mind. This allows the other person to point out the flaws in your position, encouraging you to ask questions. This creates a conversation instead of an argument.

woman and man arguing. image from
  1. Change your approach

When talking to people you disagree with and worse comes to worst, do not trample over other people’s dignity by insulting or disrespecting them. Try to be patient, calm and respectful when airing your opinion. Agree to disagree, then walk away.  This will not only foster a background for future relations, but people will grow to respect and value your sentiments too.

Keep in mind “If we’re supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have been given two mouths and one ear.” Mark Twain.

Check out how to gracefully take constructive criticism.

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