How to Have an Effective Disagreement

From a young age, I’ve been an observer. As a shy only child, I would always find myself listening to other people’s conversations rather than contributing to the conversation. I was also always surrounded by adults, which meant I got to sit in on adult conversations. These conversations were usually between my mom and her friends, and consisted of rehashing arguments with spouses, family members, and workplace drama.

Not only have I heard these arguments rehashed, I’ve witnessed some ~heated debates~ first hand. My family members were all very reactive and argumentative people when I was growing up, all wanting the last word and stopping at nothing to get it. Through moving multiple times, a divorce, and a slew of other stressful life events that spurred on arguments in my household, I always sat quietly and determined where the arguments had gone wrong and how I would have handled the situation. While this sounds like an odd pastime for a child, it taught me how to have the most effective (and lease hurtful) disagreement possible.

Here are my 6 tips to having an effective argument:

  1. 1. Think Before You Speak

    In my experience the short, explosive arguments are always the least effective and most hurtful. If you take the time to have a quiet, long argument, that means you’re taking the time to calculate your responses and think through the repercussions of what you're saying.  A lot of people have the tendency to fly off the handle and say things they don't mean in an argument. Whenever I disagree with someone, whether in person or over text, I take the time to pause and consider if what I’m about to say is mature, constructive, and a good representation of me.

  2. 2. Stay Calm

    No one is taking you less serious than when you’re yelling, crying, or acting erratically. If you can keep your composure and remain calm, you’re more likely to be taken seriously and communicate what you actually want to say.

  3. 3. Listen

    Simple, right? This is not as simple as some may think. When you are having a disagreement, you are often focusing on what you’re going to say next rather than what the other person is explaining to you. If you listen to them, you’ll either find another piece of their argument to successfully counter, or you’ll realize that you have some common ground.

  4. 4. Take a Break

    If you're at the point in the argument where the same issues are being talked over and no compromise is in sight, take a break. You might just need some space from the argument (and the person) to determine what you really need to say and what compromises you’re willing to make.

  5. 5. Focus on Logic Rather than Emotion

    If you can’t come at the argument from a logical standpoint, you may not have something to be arguing about at all. This tip is not just for you, but for the person on the other side of the argument. Don’t put someone else through an argument for something that doesn't have significance, and don’t put yourself in a situation where you seem petty or unreasonable.

  6. 6. Respect the Other Person

    Ultimately, if you're taking the time to argue with someone, that probably means that deep down you care about what they're saying and the person has some significance to you. If this isn't the case, consider picking your battles more carefully. If you do care about them, keep in mind that this person also cares enough about you and your opinion to argue with you, and keep in mind that they truly believe that what they are saying is right.