Given today’s political and social environments, it doesn’t take much for a minor disagreement to escalate quickly. With people’s sensitivities at their peak, strong emotions are likely to emerge at the mere mention of certain topics. This unfortunate consequence of the times can drastically alter the nature of essential relationships.
To lead with emotional intelligence is critical in these situations. Some people may not agree with your viewpoint, but many of these relationships play an important role in your life and business. Maintaining a healthy interaction will help to preserve the quality of the relationship. Find your strength and take the high road; it doesn’t mean you’re giving in or sacrificing your values. Redirecting an argument means that you know how to set aside your ego to achieve an outcome that serves the higher good.
Negative emotions, such as anger and frustration, will hijack your body. Examples are when breathing becomes shallow, the shoulders and gut tense up, and the brain seems to go haywire with jumbling thoughts and emotions. It takes strength to regain your self-awareness, but your willpower is up to the challenge.
Think about why your temper is on edge. It’s not so much the situation, but the thoughts you entertain about the conversation. If you feel the need to be right, or have feelings of vulnerability, for instance, it’s nearly impossible to remain in control of your temper. Find your confidence and listen without judgment or taking things too personally.
While you may vehemently disagree with this person, everyone has a right to their opinions. It may be a challenge to respect what they say, but remember to respect them as a fellow human being.
Re-establish respect throughout the conversation with statements like, “I appreciate that we can discuss our differences.” You might point out that you understand how important the topic is to them, as you feel the same way.
Establish mutual ground.
There is something within every topic that two parties can agree upon, even if it’s based on a broad concept. You want to solve a problem, or have a strong economy, or whatever is at the core of your debate. Find that point and concede that you have different ideas of how to get there, but that you both want what’s best.
People want to be heard and need to trust that they can voice their opinions without consequence. Dismissiveness undermines trust and respect. Direct the conversation toward an environment of mutual trust by asking them to tell you more about a specific point.
Agree to disagree.
Differing viewpoints, values, expectations, needs, and personalities in general are what make this world work. If everyone were like-minded, there would be no innovation, balance, or growth. As a leader, it’s essential to surround yourself with people who think differently than you.
Learn to appreciate and value diversity rather than force your opinion.
I recently took part in a conversation during which the other party became increasingly frustrated upon learning that we didn’t share the same viewpoint. Rather than matching my friend’s intensity, I chose to neutralize the situation by saying, “You know, John. I think it’s awesome that we can discuss our differences respectfully, and maybe even learn something from each other. I know it won’t affect our friendship, which is what’s cool about us.” John’s tone changed immediately, and the discussion remained amicable.
End the conversation.
If your debate partner’s tone continues to escalate, it’s probably best to courteously end the conversation. Willingness to walk away before too much damage is done is a demonstration of confidence and emotional intelligence.
Put an end to the discussion by saying something like, “John, we both have strong opinions on this topic. Let’s agree to respect that fact and leave it at that.”
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