How to Passionately Disagree and Strengthen a Relationship | Ep. #9

Play episode
Handling disagreements well

Intro: Men. We are not simple chest-thumping, rock-smashing, fire-starting barbarians. We have depth. We intensely feel. We are scared, yet brave. We love to have fun. We’re imperfect and make mistakes. We’re compassionate and loving. We are multifaceted. Let’s explore the reality of masculinity together.

00:29 Have you ever had a conversation with a friend where you walked away feeling just absolutely frustrated or maybe even a spouse that by the time the conversation was over, you don’t even know where the relationship is? Well, that’s what we’re going to be diving into in today’s conversation. How to do that in a way where by the end of the conversation, you don’t hate one another? Matter of fact, you might even appreciate the other person’s side of view. Or like them more. Or who knows, maybe even learn a thing or two. And so without further ado, let’s dive into today’s topic.

01:21 All right. Today’s topic could be a touchy one for some people we’re talking about disagreeing, but doing it in a way that can actually strengthen a relationship. Rather than, unfortunately what it’s doing for a lot of people which is, creating disconnection or arguments or blow ups, whatever it may be. And believe it or not, there’s a way to disagree and still maintain the relationship. Now obviously it’s on both sides that need to kind of engage in some of these things. And I think that the first thing. and probably the most important one, is the relationship should be more important to you than whatever that topic is that you disagree on. It is impossible to agree on all points with another individual. It’s just impossible. I have a lot of friends that fundamentally disagree with me on a variety of topics. I had one friend that I met for coffee every week and we, if there was two sides of a coin, we would be approaching the topic looking at the opposite sides.

02:26 But he was one of my closer friends. And what it was is that I valued his lens on whatever that topic was, for a variety of reasons and we’ll get into some of those, but the starting point was I cared more about our relationship than whatever that topic was that we disagreed on. One point real quickly, if you are offended by the Facebook rapid fire comments or social media comments in general, there’s no relational equity there. There’s not a relationship hold onto and maintain. So it’s much easier to let those kind of bounce off of you and not confront or challenge you in such a deep and intimate way. If it is, then that should be something that you pause and take inventory internally of like why is it that a written comment by someone, whether you know them or not, is affecting you so deeply.

03:18 As far as communication, another breakdown that you have when it comes to social media specifically is the format that it is. You know, it’s written communication. If it’s Twitter or whatever it may be, it’s really short and most people don’t take the time to put together an entire thought in a matter of couple of sentences. And most topics you can’t cover in a couple sentences, can you? So specific to social media, you have to be willing to understand that most people are not going to be able to accurately convey what they really truly believe about a topic when they’re just throwing out a reactionary comment or whatever it may be. But just in general, over 80% of communication is normally conveyed in body language, in tone of voice, in your eye contact and so on. And so when you have something that’s like social media, you are literally reading that content in the lens that you choose to put on just those words.

04:17 And you’re doing that without taking into consideration all of the other aspects of communication that really make up an individual’s ability to communicate something with their heart behind it. So just keep that in mind when you are engaging on social media. Another big point to be aware of is be slow to react. I mean, one of my favorite analogies that I heard years ago is the whole thing of don’t flinch, right? And the guy that was teaching it at the time, he literally said, well, he jumps into a cold shower to learn how to just take some deep breaths and not flinch in the physical natural. But then he also used that to not flinch. This doesn’t mean like stand your ground. It’s being willing to pause for a moment and take in what the other person is saying and not just throw out your opinion right away.

05:16 So the more that you can be slow to react and you can control that, the more you’re setting yourself up for success to be able to communicate in a way that is not that knee jerk reaction. Because the more that you’re able to convey your side of things out of a non-reactionary state, the better you will be able to get your point across. And the better chance that you have for the other person to actually hear what your heart really wants to say. It’s really hard when you’re white-hot with emotion to say what you deep down inside believe. Because when you communicate out of a reaction, then it’s what you feel that you need to do to either defend yourself or if you’re feeling hurt or unseen, et cetera. So slow down. Take a moment before you react and control the pace of the conversation in a way where it’s not just building on itself and escalating to a point where it’s destructive and creates division instead of connection.

06:28 I don’t know about you, but it can be hard to want to be fully present with someone who you fundamentally disagree with. But again, we’re going back to the point of how do you disagree and either maintain or strengthen a relationship? and one of the ways that you do that is you actually sit down and you listen to what that other person is saying. Sometimes it’s not on them, it’s on you. Because if you’re not actively listening or fully present, if you’re either thinking about your to do list or, how about this one, if you’re thinking about your response before they’re even done talking, then a lot of times what happens is you jump to a conclusion or an assumption and you don’t take the time to really listen. And so one of the most effective things I’ve learned how to do is just clarify what the other person’s saying.

07:21 Well, I’ve had several conversations where if I didn’t just take those 10 seconds to reflect what that person is saying and just clarify, we could have gone down an entire different path in the conversation that could have easily been prevented if I would have just literally taken 10 seconds to say, “are you saying that….?” Because I’ve had several times where they, you know, they reply with, “Well, no, that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m trying to say is,” and sometimes, especially if you’re talking to somebody who’s a verbal processor, they need to communicate their point a few different ways to finally land on the point that they really mean. So if you know that you’re in relationship with a verbal processor, you need to give them space to say something that they don’t even fully mean to arrive at that point. And one way you do that is you reflect back to them, you know, did you mean. “Did you mean this or did you mean that?” “Okay, the way that you’re communicating right now is saying X, Y, or Z. Is that really what you mean?”

08:29 And you give space for them to either say, “You know what? Yeah, that’s exactly what I mean.” Or “No, that’s not what I mean at all.” And let them expand on that point. And there’s always going to be things that you disagree on. But most of the time if you take any topic that’s a hot topic, you can find common ground. If you’re willing to look for it. If you approach a conversation where it’s black and white, right and wrong, you’re going into it on guard and defensive and reactionary. It’s really hard to find that common ground, but if you go into a conversation saying, “You know what? I really care about that person. I’m going to pause and reflect and echo back to them what they’re saying to make sure that our points right, to make sure that we’re on the same page with the point that we’re talking about and I’m going to look for that common ground.”

09:19 What you’re doing is you’re helping them lower their guard. Because more than likely if it’s a hot topic, they’re putting up their defenses as well and feeling a need to quote unquote “go to war.” When you find that common ground, then all of a sudden they don’t feel like they have to be on guard. They can actually start to articulate their point a little bit clearer. Because it’s not as hostile because you’re looking for areas that you agree on. And when you find them, highlight it. Lead with that, even if you disagree with a certain aspect of a conversation, lead with a point that you can find that helps diffuse that defensive posture. Let’s pick a hot topic real quick. Let’s go with gun control. That’s a hot topic. Now, I’m a former Marine. I own guns. I personally believe in the second amendment and yet people that are anti-gun, I’ve had really interesting conversations with them. Because they could believe that you should take away all the guns and give certain examples and all kinds of stats. But then in that they say one or two things that I agree with.

10:30 Let’s just say the need for better background checks as an example. Where if somebody is either emotionally unstable or psychologically unstable, they should not have a gun. Okay, great. I agree with that point. I agree that if somebody has schizophrenia, they probably shouldn’t be going out and buying an AR 15. And so I could disagree with a lot of their points, but if I start my response with, “You know, I really do agree that people that have mental issues shouldn’t own a gun.” And you start with that point, and then expand on “Personally, I think that it’s okay to have a gun X, Y, Z for my reasons. Right? But if you can find that common ground, then you can maintain connection relationally because you’re not on that black and white right and wrong. I’m on my side of my fence and you’re on your side and we’re basically just lobbing grenades at one another.

11:26 Another point to consider is don’t feel the need to justify your position. A lot of times if you feel that you feel like, “you know what? I need to make sure that they understand my side of things.” A lot of times all that’s doing is exposing an insecurity in yourself. It actually has nothing to do with them. Because when you’re okay with you, then you’re not putting yourself on trial in the sense of who you are related to a certain topic. It makes it a lot lower stakes when you don’t have to rest your identity on being right. You know when I’m in a conversation with somebody who I disagree with, and all of a sudden they feel this deep seated need to justify their position and basically build a case to make sure that they’re right and I’m wrong.

12:16 What it communicates to me is they’re really insecure. One other possibility is that as a child they weren’t really heard and validated. And that circles back to that common ground where when you can find that common ground, really what you’re doing, if it’s that latter point, is you’re validating them. If you’re talking to somebody who is insecure, you show strength as a man to not be shaken and who you are given that topic and be willing to validate their side of things even if you disagree. Because when they feel validated, they don’t feel the need to emotionally kick and scream to have their point heard, But it’s really hard to do that when you’re feeling like you have to justify your side of things. Okay, here’s a point that might be challenging for some of you. Be willing to be wrong. It’s really immature to approach hot topics assuming that you are always right.

13:12 Because you’re not. And I don’t know about you, but even things that I thought that I was right in or in the right in a certain topic 10 years ago, I don’t necessarily even agree with myself because I’ve grown and matured and become more educated and had life experiences. Think about it this way. If you had a conversation with the version of yourself 10 years ago than where you are now, would you agree with everything that that person believed? Probably not. You would probably find yourself being wrong in certain belief systems, not because you’re a bad person or malicious or anything, but because you just didn’t have the education or life experiences to better understand where that common ground is or that gray is. You know, most of us run around with essentially horse blinders on where we’re only seeing the tunnel vision of what our life has shown us.

14:05 That’s why a lot of times when you get people that have traveled around the world, they’re a little bit more well rounded. Not because they’re a better person, but they’ve been exposed to different cultures or different experiences in their life that helps them understand that a lot of times it’s just different. It doesn’t mean necessarily right or wrong. Certain experiences, they’ve had highlights the point that, “you know what? I believe this growing up, but I don’t exactly agree with that anymore.” So be willing to be wrong. You know, I’ve been called on things where if I came into it with a mindset of “I’m right”, I would not have grown as an individual into who I am today. My point is be willing to be wrong. And again, if any of these points that we’re covering, you feel the need to justify in and of or push back on, then it may be an area that shows your own insecurity and may be worth exploring. Why is being right or being justified or finding the common ground or active listening. What is it within these points that causes such a strong response?

15:11 What if you became curious instead of angry? This has been one of the more impactful changes that I’ve made. To become curious instead of angry. It’s really hard to be curious and be angry at the same time. It’s kind of like, it’s really hard to be curious and be afraid at the same time. Curiosity is such a powerful tool to use in life. I mean when we were kids we were super curious, but as adults we start to become less curious and we start to deal with anxiety or fear, or anger more and more. There’s a lot tied into that, but when it comes to disagreeing with somebody, I just, I let myself be fascinated by the other person’s life story that has brought them to the point that they believe something that I disagree with.

15:58 And so, instead of being angry I just- “Tell me more about that. Wow. And where did you learn that? What kind of religion did you have growing up?” Like begin to probe into the individual instead of the topic. Because a lot of times if you take the time to better understand the individual, then their lens on something makes more sense. And when you’re curious, instead of angry, you can better understand maybe why someone believes a certain way. So using curiosity instead of anger as an internal approach to a topic that maybe you disagree with, can lead to a really productive and sometimes enlightening conversation with somebody. If you take the time to pause, listen to the individual echo back, find the connection points that you can find the common ground, apply some of these things. You walk away from a conversation where you disagree, but that relationship is stronger because of it. Because you’re not having to feel justified or stand your ground.

17:00 And my last point is there’s just going to be times where you disagree, and that’s okay. You know, it’s been really interesting with my oldest son, he’s almost 11, and we started to have these conversations around politics or emotions, just a deeper level of conversation. And there are some things that we just disagree on. And what’s funny is there’s been times where he has said to me, “well dad, we’ll just agree to disagree.” Like, “yeah, that’s right. We will son.” Because even if you fundamentally disagree with me on certain topics, my love for him and my relationship with him will always be more important than having him need to agree with me for connection to maintain between us. And so sometimes once we’ve really fully fleshed out a certain topic and we’re still at a place where we don’t agree, we land on, “you know what? We’ll agree to disagree.”

18:01 So point being is you can always find common ground on any topic. Even if that common ground is, “I agree to disagree.” Maintaining connection in relationship, I don’t know about you, but it feels like it’s been a hard, because of our society and our political environment. I mean even down to the pandemic that we’re going through right now, it seems that you’re on one side or the other, right? You’re either “I’m going to fight for my rights and not wear a mask.” or I’m going to be the side that is “You’re being irresponsible and I’m going to wear my mask”, et cetera. Even in that, we’ve become divided. And if you let every topic that someone disagrees with you become a factor of disconnection, what you’re going to find is as life goes on, you’re going to have less and less people feel like they can really fully be themselves. Because when somebody disagrees with you, they don’t feel like it’s safe to express their opinion because they know. “If I share my opinion, it’s either going to turn into an argument or I’m going to be belittled, or looked down on, dismissed”, whatever that may be.

19:11 Men, it’s time to grow up. It’s time to mature enough to where disconnection isn’t the end result if you disagree. Are you able to do it? Are you able to find a topic that you disagree on? Try it this week. Try to find a topic this week that you disagree on, you intentionally bring up, and try to navigate it different than you have. And see if you get a different result. I can guarantee you that the outcome will be better if you’re willing to make the relationship mean more to you than the topic. And be willing to be man enough to be wrong sometimes. Be willing to let go of the need to be justified. All of those things are signs of maturing, and our society so desperately needs it right now. So we’ll end this with a simple question. Will you be one of the men that’s willing to walk away from a disagreement with a better relationship than when you started the conversation?

More from this show

Episode 7