Whether it’s Bid Day T-shirt designs, politics or your favorite sports teams, disagreement is a regular part of life. While it may not come naturally to navigate differences of opinion with care and respect, it is one of the most important things we can do as humans. From friends in the chapter to strangers in the stadium, keep these strategies in mind the next time you have a disagreement.
- Prioritize your relationship. It can be natural to distance yourself from someone during a disagreement. Instead, talk to this person through the lens of your existing relationship. Give them the trust, communication and consideration that your relationship with them deserves.
- Assume good intentions. Many disagreements escalate because we assume the other party is being mean-spirited or doesn’t care about our perspective. If you assume the best intentions and acknowledge that you’re in this disagreement because you both care passionately about something, you can have a discussion based on understanding.
- Manage your emotions. During a disagreement, you might feel uncomfortable, nervous, attacked, angry or just generally upset. While these emotions are valid, they shouldn’t be the primary focus of your interaction. Don’t let your anger change the conversation to one filled with personal attacks or further misunderstandings.
- Know when to change the subject. There are meaningful, productive disagreements – and then there are conversations that only serve to hurt those involved. Be aware of what kind of disagreement you’re having and walk away if it becomes the latter.
- Remember the Golden Rule still applies. There’s a reason we teach children to treat others the way they want to be treated. If you want to be heard, listen. If you want to be addressed with care, give kindness. Don’t simply be reactive – play a role in creating a positive environment. As Justin Jones-Fosu shares in his article, Embracing Everyday Diversity, in the fall 2018 Angelos: “You do not have to agree with one’s ideology to respect them as another human on this planet.”
- And finally, take action! What is it that you care so deeply about that you’re willing to disagree with your best friends or strangers? Whether it’s a campus policy, chapter decision or state legislation, your voice can be heard in productive ways. Join a committee in your chapter. Volunteer in the community. Vote in the mid-term elections. You’ve got more capacity to make change than you think!