It’s so easy to get caught up in the emotional uproar of defense when someone says something that you disagree with or seems to want to start an argument. We can feel flustered, heated, annoyed, or want to shake the person and scream “what is wrong with you!!!!!!”
Here are my top 3 tips I have to deal with uncomfortable situations where you disagree with the other person. Keep these in your toolbelt especially for meetings, holiday parties, or family gatherings.
You never know when disagreements will sneak up on you! We’ve all been there where we are at a social event, minding our own business and having a good time. Then, someone comes out of nowhere and it seems like they are trying to start a fight. Not this time Nancy from accounting!
Tip 1-Be Mindful:
In the moment that something someone says disagrees with you, I guarantee your body is going to react before your mind. My grandmother, a secretary, must’ve known this because she taught me to smile when people were angry.
Funny side story (but please put down your lunch first): In college, I worked at a home improvement store at the returns counter. People would try to return anything, but what puts the cherry on top is when people would try to return used toilet seats. Gross! When I would say the store’s policy is not to return the seat you wouldn’t believe the stories I would get. “It feels like a rock on my ass!,” “My daughter fell in!” “it doesn’t clean well.” Whatever you can imagine, it was probably said. There were times when I would want to get angry or just laugh uncontrollably because what the heck are you supposed to do when someone is trying to return a used toilet seat! (I empathize with pharmacy peeps who I’m sure to have this same experience with condoms, but let’s not go there…). I remembered during this time my grandmother’s lesson and would just smile and repeat myself until they asked for a manager. It helped keep me keep a level head and this was well before all my psychological and mindfulness training.
In the moment where you feel your body reacting, take note of it. Everyone’s different, so it could be your face flushes, your fists clench, your shoulders hunch, your mouth seems to have no filter, you get the point. In that moment be mindful that you are reacting to what this person is saying and something about it is disagreeing with you.
Tip 2:-Get Curious:
Now that you know your body is reacting in response to what the other person said, we need to get the mind in check. This doesn’t mean you tell this person they’re an idiot and walk away (especially if they are your boss!). In your mind, get curious about what this person is saying.
An example could be, “Hmmm, that’s interesting he doesn’t think Claudia can handle the project” instead of “This guy clearly hates women and has it out for my friend Claudia!” This allows you to open up the conversation by maybe saying something along the lines of, “That’s interesting you don’t think Claudia could handle this, has she not handled projects in the past?” Get curious and notice the difference in yourself. If the other person is a drama-seeker, this tip will put them in check and throw them off!
Getting curious takes the emotion from you and puts it back on the other person in a way that builds understanding, doesn’t provoke an argument, and keeps the conversation open. It also teaches you how to listen better, be patient with people you disagree with, and how to control yourself in difficult situations. It sounds like a win-win to me!
Tip 3-Don’t Personalize:
My last tip is not to take things personally. Be like Elsa and let that shit go. There’s no reason to waste your time and energy on other people’s crappy opinions or get upset by something someone else said.
Whatever they say or feel is their experience and only that. Don’t make their negative experiences your own, it’s just not worth it. You know how you feel and what your personal truth is. Hold onto that.
So there you have it. There are my top 3 tips to deal with people you disagree with. I’m sure you will get lots of practice with this as we return to offices and back to whatever a “normal” life is within the next few months.
Be mindful, get curious, and don’t personalize. I hope you start to find that the more practice you have with this, the less stressed you are, and the more you can separate your happiness from others’ negativity.
You got this!