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TIP: What If I Don’t Agree?


​Disagreements happen. They’re just a fact of life. Each person has their own feelings and experiences, so it makes sense that not everyone will always see eye to eye. In fact, our different perspectives are what make life interesting and allow us to keep learning and growing. The problem arises when disagreements become arguments.

Arguments happen when we express our disagreement, particularly when we do so in an “I’m right; you’re wrong” sort of way. They are often born from and fed by difficult emotions – anger, sadness, hurt, inadequacy, superiority, helplessness, confusion, fear. As we express our disagreement, these emotions tend to take over and close us off to the other person. We can no longer hear or validate that person’s perspective. The situation becomes “us” vs. “them,” and, as much as we want to win the debate, everyone just ends up pretty frustrated.

Here are some steps to help you learn how to communicate:

Just the Facts:

When you approach another person, it’s best to stick to the facts, rather than bringing in feelings or pretending like you know more than you do. For example, instead of saying to your friend, “You’re mean. You didn’t invite me to your party. I know it’s because you’re jealous of me,” start with, “I wasn’t invited to your birthday party.” That’s it. You don’t know why you weren’t invited. Your friend hasn’t told you. So you only know this one fact.

Validate:

Next, validate the other person’s feelings and perspective. Nobody likes to be accused of something, and people get way less defensive if you give them the benefit of the doubt. Following the example above, you might say to your friend, “I know it’s kind of awkward to talk about this,” or “I’m sure you couldn’t invite everyone in the class,” or “I’m sure there’s a reason.”

Use “I” Statements:

After giving the other person the benefit of the doubt, make sure to focus not on what they did or said but on how the facts of the situation affected you. So, instead of saying, “You really hurt me by not inviting me,” stick with “I felt really hurt that I wasn’t invited.” Your friend may not have meant to hurt you, so don’t accuse them of that; but you were hurt, and it’s okay to acknowledge that.

Ask for what you want/need:

It’s also okay to ask for what you want or need. If you’d like an explanation, say “I’d guess I’d like to understand why I wasn’t invited,” or, “I hope you’ll invite me next time.”

Compromise/Negotiate:

Finally, try to compromise; or if you can’t compromise, try to negotiate some other solution. If your friend won’t promise to invite you next time, ask if they can hang out with you at another time. If they don’t seem interested in your option or in compromising in that moment, don’t push the issue. You can always ask them to think about it, and follow up with them later.

Avoiding arguments doesn’t mean that we can never express our disagreement or confront other people when we feel that they are mistaken. It just means that we have communicate in a way that lets both sides talk and says “how can we resolve this situation?” or “help me understand.” Even if we don’t end up “winning” or getting the answer we want, we still feel heard, and that’s a lot better than feeling frustrated and angry. ​​

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