So, you’ve found yourself in a situation where you are having a conversation, a Facebook discussion, or a text battle with someone who has a different opinion than you. Maybe it is even an opinion that you vehemently disagree with, or causes you to have bile rise up from your gut. It’s okay. Here’s how to handle it.
Take a Time Out.
If you are feeling angry, defensive and reactionary – you are in your reptile brain, and there are only three things you can do in your reptile brain: Fight, Flight or Freeze. Since these three things will not help to have a productive conversation, you need to get back into your cortex or thinking brain. For more information about that reactionary space, also known as an amygdala hijack, or being in your reptile brain, check out my blog here.
Okay, now that you are back in your cortex and you can operate like a human and not a reptile, the first order of business is to listen. Now, let me tell you a secret about listening… most people don’t know how to do it. The lack of listening skills is epidemic in our American culture. I have a blog on listening here, but these are the basics you need to know in a situation where you are conversing with someone with a vastly different opinion than you.
“You said it even better than I could have said it”
“Yes! You totally get me!”
Then, and ONLY THEN, can you go to the next step.
Share your position.
Now that you are positive that you’ve heard and understood the other person, you can clearly express your opinion. To allow yourself to be more easily heard, use these tips:
Be aware of your energy. Lets be honest here, when someone thinks that you are wrong, dumb or foolish – you can feel that energy. All of us have had a time when we’ve experienced someone’s words being nice, but their energy saying something very different. So, keep your energy open and curious.
Keep your Language Positive. Stay away from name calling, labeling, or using sweeping generalizations.
Use Expansive Words. Stay away from closed words like “always” and “never” that limit possibilities. This also includes ‘should-ing on’ people. Don’t ‘should’ on someone. No one should be a different way. Allow others to be exactly who they are. For list of expansive language, click here.
Do not use sarcasm. Sarcasm can often be misunderstood and can frequently feel like a put-down. If you do use sarcasm, clarify it and your reasons for using it.
No ad hominem attacks. This basically means, do not direct your argument against the person, remember to direct it at the position they are maintaining.
Offer Respect. Never be disparaging with another human. ALL of us have value and our environments created all of the opinions, feelings and thoughts we each have. Stay open and curious about why the other person sees the world as they do (especially if it’s vastly different than your own world view).
Check in. Ask the person to repeat in his or her own words what you have said so that you can make sure that no miscommunication has occurred.
You can repeat this process as many times as you need to. Even if both of you walk away retaining your original opinions, you will walk away feeling good because you have been heard, accepted, acknowledged and respected.
It’s not about forcing people to think like us and be like us, folks. It is about sharing ourselves in an open and vulnerable way and listening to others with the intent to understand them.
This is communication. This is how we make a difference in the world.
Mindy Amita Aisling
ICF Life Coach,
NFPT Fitness Trainer,
OMA Certified Mediator
Mindy Aisling is a certified life and business coach in Bend, OR, exceeding all of the educational requirements & training set forth by the ICF.
She has worked with such organizations as St. Charles Hospital, Soroptimists, The Dispute Resolution Center, Olympic Medical Center, Americorps, and Juvenile and Family Services.
She has been featured in the New York Times, The Seattle Times, The Bend Bulletin, The Peninsula Daily News, KOMO 4 TV, The Oregonian and many more. You can learn more about Mindy here.
Mindy offers professional, affordable online coaching to clients around the world, and local coaching to clients in Bend, Oregon.
Licensed and Insured