Presidential elections and uncomfortable holiday gatherings aside, disagreement is a normal part of life. How you deal with those disagreements makes a big difference in preserving relationships and improving teamwork and trust at work. Here are a few thoughts through the lens of The FISH! Philosophy.

Be There

“You must be able to say “I understand,” before you can say “I agree,” or “I disagree,” or “I suspend judgment.” ― Mortimer J. Adler

Listening is not just a pause in speaking. It’s impossible to hear what the other person is saying if your brain is busy preparing a response.

It’s not easy, but being fully present means letting go, temporarily, of what you are certain you know. You are not giving up your beliefs. You are strong enough to simply “be” for a few minutes, and hear the other point of view.

The more you understand their view, the better you will understand and explain your position.

Make Their Day

“We cannot force others to behave differently if they disagree with us. But if we change what we are saying or doing, they may respond differently.” ― Nabil N. Jamal

What message are you sending while you listen and respond? Is your body language tense? Do your eyes seek to wound people or to see what is good in them? It’s easier for people to hear your words if they are not distracted by your physical posture.

Think about how it might feel to be the other person. Remember that their beliefs probably arose out of experiences very different from yours. Ask questions that try to understand how they came to their point of view. Sincere curiosity shows you are willing to get out of your world and into theirs. It shows respect, and in a small way, may make their day.

Play

“Number one rule in arguments: If you’re losing, start correcting their grammar.” — Unknown

The reason arguments are no fun is because they’re too serious. A little playful humor can defuse anger, interrupt the wrestling match and put things into perspective.

Sarcasm may work for comedians but not for resolving disagreements. The best humor in an argument is to gently make fun of yourself or the situation you’re in. It should bring both participants together and help them relax for a moment.

When people are relaxed, they are able to think more clearly, hear differently and find a creative solution to the dispute.

Choose Your Attitude

“Instead of seeing how much pain I can dish out towards those I disagree with, or who I believe have done me wrong, I seek to follow the golden rule and use my words and behavior to create more of what the world needs – love, compassion, and connection.” ― Aspen Baker

Before you enter any argument, ask yourself: What is my goal in this interaction? To dominate? To hurt the other person? To help them? To share a belief you hold dear? To learn?

Think about what you value about the other person. (Not always easy, I know.) Ask yourself: Is this issue more important than the relationship that will be affected by my reaction to it?
Another approach: How would I speak to this person if we were having dinner together tonight?

Focus on who you are being. Do your actions consistently support the words you are using to defend that position? You’ll be more effective in changing minds if they do.