Keeping our disagreements from becoming full-blown fights can be challenging. Many times, we’re so passionate about our beliefs or what we want to do that any form of opposition causes us to become frustrated and angry. We may prefer that others simply agree with our position or if they don’t to remain silent. We may be willing to hear their point of view at times but are not necessarily anxious to discuss it further. Lacking the proper skills necessary to communicate effectively leaves one feeling at a disadvantage and somewhat vulnerable. We fight to get our point across, to prove our position right, to convince the other party to ultimately agree with us or at the very least to get them to back down from theirs.
The following five techniques found in the L~A~R~S~S Method can dramatically reduce the risk of escalating a disagreement into a heated argument. They are:
Listen: Begin by first being willing to listen to what the other person has to say. By doing so, it shows that their feelings or position are important to you. This eases their concerns that they will not be given ample time to express their position and puts them at ease knowing that you are a trustworthy person who cares about them and is willing to put them first. Listen with the intent to understand; not for the purpose of responding. This is a critical mistake many of us make.
Ask Questions: Ask for more information. “Why is this important to you? How long have you felt this way?” “Can you give me more details?” Questions enable the inquirer to gain further insight into the other person’s position. It also signifies that they are important to you and that the issues at hand matter as well. Answers to those questions provide valuable insights into the nature of the other person as well as the subject matter. Knowledge is power when used productively and in this regard gives you greater ability to ultimately resolve your differences.
Validate: Rather than criticize or belittle the other person for their feelings it’s critical to simply acknowledge that you recognize how important this is to them. Too often, we are prepared for the other side to try to prove that we’re wrong, or that our way of thinking is flawed. To do so only devalues the person, diminishes their feelings, and exacerbates the situation. And in doing so, they feel disrespected and will defend their position even more or discontinue the discussion. During this stage of the process, it’s important not to give advice. Simply acknowledge what the other person is saying.
Share Your Side: Once you have thoroughly listened to what they had to say, thoughtfully share your position as well. Be succinct and clear, always being respectful and sensitive in your comments. Be truthful while taking into consideration that your objective is not to prove your position more valid than theirs but rather that they may have a better understanding of what truly matters to you as well. Avoid criticizing, downplaying or comparing your position to theirs.
Seek a Solution: Once both sides have carefully shared their thoughts and feelings, the final step is to determine how they are going to proceed: is it possible to find a viable solution? Is in the best interest of both parties to let the issue go (if it’s not one of great importance)? Can they continue in the relationship or do they need to respectfully go their separate ways? Whatever the decision is, keep in mind that it is considered to be the best decision at the time and may possibly be revisited at some point in the future.
Regardless of the topic, nature of your relationship with the opposing party, or your personal feelings, any disagreement can be rationally discussed and resolved to a reasonable degree. Keep in mind that there will not always be a unanimous meeting of the minds but there can always be a respectful discussion. Remember, too, that their feelings and position are as valid to them as yours are to you. Your role is not to persuade or change the other person but to listen with the intent to understand. In doing go, your responses will be more thoughtful and kind and that will garner their respect. And with respect, there is little chance for a nasty fight to ensue. L~A~R~S~S: Listen, Ask Questions, Validate, Share Your Side, and Seek a Solution. That’s pretty simple, isn’t it? (Say yes. Thank you!)