It’s inevitable; you’re going to misunderstand me. If you read one (or more) of my blog posts there will be something that you disagree with. It may be a statement I make, or an entire idea I present, but you may find yourself feeling angry or confused. You may just disagree with my opinion and have a different idea in your own mind. All of the above are welcome and will also occur in the context of your day-to-day life.

Part of living is navigating differences. When you disagree with someone, it may produce anger or frustration that leads you to treat them differently—either through ignoring them or acting out. Rather than making a simple disagreement more significant than it is, reframe this difference as a learning opportunity. When you look at each interaction as a teaching tool, you’ll grow on a daily basis.

Here are five steps to take during a disagreement:

1.     Be aware of your reaction. Often times when we have emotional reactions to something, there are many levels of processing that are occurring that need to be sorted out. Something may provoke you not because it is false, but because you unconsciously identify with it. Other statements may resonate and ring true to you. Pay attention to all of your reactions.

2.     Identify the feeling. After you are aware of your reaction, the next step is to take a moment and feel where it is coming from. Where does this feeling exist? Locate the specific place in the body where you feel the positive or negative emotion. Breathe into this space, prior to thinking, and sit with the feeling.

3.     Reflect. Now that you have spent some time feeling, try to put words to your experience. Attempt to understand what may have caused this feeling in this specific part of your body. Lightly investigate for the source, or root of this emotional process. If you are grounded in the present and open, the answer may spontaneously rise to the surface. If no answer comes, that’s okay too.

4.     Take action. Do something with your thoughts and feelings. Whether it’s expressing them creatively in poetry or painting, sharing them with another person, or speaking to the person directly, it’s important to move that energy. When you confront someone, it provides them the opportunity to clarify or adapt to new feedback. One of the best things you can do when you disagree with someone is seek out new information. Try to learn something new to change or support your perspective and then share that information with others.

5.     Recognize that it’s okay to disagree. Disagreeing with someone doesn’t mean that you need to stop speaking to them. Often times we can learn from people we disagree with because they challenge us to think about the world and ourselves in a new way. Sometimes when you spend more time speaking to individuals you disagree with, you come to understand their perspectives. Through this shared understanding and mutual disagreement, you may even become best friends.

I am an expert in psychology. I am knowledgeable about sociology, spirituality, and philosophy. I do not claim to know everything, nor do I claim perfection. Most of what I know, however, is integrated knowledge embedded in my existence and experience. As I do my best to share my thoughts with you, I reserve the right to change my mind. When you bring forth new ideas and new information, I consider your perspective. The more you question me and the more you question yourself, the faster we grow. When you share information with others, they may not react in the same way, but giving them the opportunity to respond is valuable for you and for their own growth and development. Do your best to learn from each person because it gives them the opportunity to do the same. 

Self-GrowthMatthew Jones