Respectfully Disagreeing

Respectfully disagreeing is an art.

As a child, my parents taught me to listen  and allow people to explain themselves before making a judgment call.  In these lessons, I also learned that I will not always agree with someone’s side or an opposing argument and that is ok.  We actively practice this in discussions to this day.  I do not agree with all thoughts and opinions my parents have on all subjects, I listen, present my side when offered the opportunity, and sometimes in the end, we have to agree to disagree.  I still respect my parents even when we have differing views and I do not agree.

I passed this down to my children.  Admittedly, when arguing with my other half, I don’t always practice this, he will tell you I go down fighting in some cases, we have had healthy discussions from time to time.  I do try however, to understand the opposing point of view.  As a parent, it was and still is really hard to explain actions people have taken that they do not understand or agree with.  As parents, we sometimes tell our children to “be the bigger person”.  Is this the right thing to do?  I am asking, I am not stating this is not.  In essence, we are guiding our children to accept it and move on for the sake of not creating a bigger challenge for themselves.  Self examination in some of the instances, I realize I had not modeled the best approach prior and this is possibly what was creating the divide for them, their inability to accept it and move in, take a loss.

I don’t touch on politics in my posts, my views are my own, and I do not believe we are living in an environment where disagreements are respectful.  When I cannot avoid the conversation, I find myself saying “I respectfully disagree” as a precursor to what I am about to say.  This realization prompted me to put some notes on my planning wall in the office so our group can be cognizant and practice disagreeing in a respectful way each day.

  1. Don’t make it personal
  2. Don’t put down the other person’s ideas or beliefs
  3. Use “I” statements to convey your message rather then “you” should or need statements
  4. Listen fully to the other point of view
  5. Stay calm, your message is clear and not so full of emotion when you stay calm

Why write about this now?  On a Saturday morning several weeks ago, I was watching an unnamed news station and I was so dismayed by the behavior of one of the panelists.  I kept thinking, wow, stop interrupting, just let the other person finish their point.  The response by this individual was so full of emotion and consistent interruption, it was hard to watch.  I completely missed the individual’s message because I was so distracted by the behavior.  By the way, the one that was being interrupted had a message I totally and fully disagreed with but this person stayed calm, listened to the others, posed the argument, and spoke to their own view rather than putting down the other.  After watching this, I went to run, the entire time I was running I kept thinking about this subject and how my parents would have just changed the channel, chuckling to myself, I decided to write this post.

Allow your passion to drive the change you want to see while allowing your calm self to present the message.  I have certainly not mastered the art but commit to disagreeing in a respectful way and hope all that read this can do the same, not matter what side you are on.


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