Each and every one of us has an opinion, it is what makes for healthy, lively conversations. Sometimes opinions have the ability to come between people and impact on their relationships and friendships. But exchanging differing viewpoints does not have to end in disaster. If handled constructively it can lead to productive conversation, bring you respect and build stronger relationships.
So, how do you do this?
Using mindfulness can go a long way to building and maintaining the relationships with family, friends, colleagues and others you meet in your daily activities.
First, it is important to acknowledge that you may never agree on everything another person says. It is okay to have different beliefs and ideals on a topic. After all, the world would be boring if everyone thought the same.
1. Use the Facts
Use facts and evidence rather than hypotheticals and assumptions. Be mindful of potential consequences of the outcome, but stay on topic. Avoid bringing into the conversation unrelated points which may cause provocation of the other person.
2. Remain Calm
All you have is a conflicting opinion, so remain calm with a neutral tone of voice. Raising your voice and shouting won’t help. Instead explain your viewpoint eloquently, stating the main points and why they are important. You will be seen as respectful and reasonable even if the other person raises their voice.
3. Listen Actively
Listening is a hard skill to learn which many people have yet to master, but is so important during communication. If you don’t listen to what the other person is saying, you will miss why they feel strongly about a topic. Simply listen and you may discover that the opposing point of view actually makes sense. You can then respond with an appropriate and thought through action.
4. Think First – Speak second
You have heard the saying think before you speak. This is so true when debating hot topics of varying opinions. Count to 10 before responding with what may end up costing your relationship. A spiteful comment in such situations can have a lasting impact and may cause irreversible damage to your relationship and reputation. Instead take a moment to think through your response in a calm manner.
5. Express your Thoughts
Reflect on how you feel and articulate mindfully your thoughts on the topic. Instead of personal attacks and insults, turn it around to express your concerns in a positive manner and one that will encourage constructive results.
6. Agreement or Consensus
It is always good to reach an agreement at the end of a debate or conversation. Even if you cannot agree on an outcome, find common ground and discuss ideas on how to bridge the gap so you both can gain closure. Do not allow disagreements to drag on. A difference of opinion is a natural part of healthy relationships. Reflect on what you have learned from this situation and you will be able to grow and take on your next challenge successfully.
Of course, there are times when difficult conversations cannot be avoided. Such as when you reman silent on something you feel strongly about; the negative emotions will eat away at you inside. As a result, those negative emotions will end up making you sick; physically and mentally.
However, when you avoid difficult conversations you are suppressing your true feelings on a subject thereby creating unnecessary tension and stress. Knowing how to have productive difficult conversations is a skill and one you can learn.
Stay strong, take a deep breath and calmly speak up about what matters to you and why you don’t agree on a subject. Discuss the subject in a calm, controlled and effective way which allows you both to understand the others’ point of view.
Conversations are about sharing different opinions and learning from each other. They also teach you important skills such as negotiation and the ability to make compromises where necessary. It is also one of the best forums to build trust and respect for future conversations.