Here’s How to Disagree in a Healthy Way

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In high school, every disagreement I had with my peers turned into an argument. My classmates and I used to argue intensely due to our opposing viewpoints on politics, science, morals, and so much more. I had a bad habit of yearning to be right and only listening to respond, not to understand. At the time, I did not realize I was engaging in a toxic habit, nor did I see anything wrong with my actions.

I acted in this manner until I was a freshman in college. One evening in class, I got into a heated debate with an upperclassman over a political subject. While I argued and tried to overpower the other person, they listened respectfully, responded to me with elegance, and made their point without arguing at all. Needless to say, the poised upperclassman won the argument. After class, I went home and told my mom, and she said, "Finally, I hope that situation taught you a lesson."

That situation definitely taught me a lesson. It showed me that there is a way to disagree with someone respectfully. Since that moment, I've made an effort to work on my behavior and have picked up a few habits that have helped me navigate disagreements in a healthier way. Ahead, I'm sharing five tips that will help you have a healthy dialogue with others when you don't see eye-to-eye. 

1. Watch Your Tone

The tone of your voice dictates the nature of a conversation. Think back to when your parents were upset with you and scolded you. Their tone was not a friendly one. When you disagree with your peers, speak to them in a calm and welcoming voice. As you talk to them in a quiet tone, they will feel comfortable talking back to you and the conversation will be productive. 

2. Listen to Understand 

Earlier, I mentioned how I only listened to my peers to respond. This is not the way to approach conversations. Instead, we should seek first to understand and then be understood. When you listen to understand, the conversation will flow better and you can have a more constructive debate. Attentive listening skills show that you care about the conversation. 

3. Keep an Open Mind 

Most people are quick to dismiss ideas if they are not familiar with them. I was one of those people. I was quick to dismiss an idea disrespectfully. Be the person that is receptive to the new ideas presented to you during the conversation. If you are receptive to new ideas, then you can learn something new from the discussion. 

4. Take Turns Speaking

When the other person is talking, do not interrupt them. Cutting someone off while they are speaking is rude and can make the conversation become hostile. Listen to what the other person has to say and then respond. Everyone deserves a right to speak up for themselves and voice their opinion. 

5.  Remain Respectful

While your conflicting opinions may cause the conversation to become intense, remain respectful at all times. Don't hurl insults at them or call them vulgar names because they don't agree with you. Insulting a person during an argument is a sign of weakness and shows that you do not have any substance to bring to the conversation. 

As a college student, I now practice these five skills daily when I engage with my peers. Yes, it is still a struggle sometimes. But, I have matured as a person and implementing these tips into my daily conversations has helped me approach disagreements respectfully.

How do you handle disagreements? Let us know in the comments! 

Zakiya Payne is a Multimedia Journalism major at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. The first-generation student enjoys writing in her journal, telling corny jokes, and shopping! A Mantra that she repeats daily is, “I am busy becoming the woman of my dreams!”