There’s no shortage of controversial issues in our world. Politics, religion, social issues, and even personal tastes in music and art can cause conflict in our interactions with others. But what happens when you disagree about certain topics with a romantic partner, family member, or close friend? Can you maintain your views without sabotaging your relationship? Yes! Here are 5 strategies to disagreeing on certain issues while still maintaining a strong connection with your loved one:
Pick your Battles
Before engaging in a (heated) debate, ask yourself “Is this conversation even worth it?”. If you feel strongly about a particular subject, then maybe it is worth it to express yourself and make sure you are heard and understood. But if the topic really isn’t that important to you, it’s probably not a good idea to risk putting a strain on your relationship. A common saying is that, “you don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.”
If you do decide to freely discuss something about which you disagree, respect is crucial. Always, always avoiding name-calling and yelling. No argument is worth that. Being respectful with your words and body language can not only preserve your relationship, but can also facilitate the conversation and make it more productive. The famous actress/ comedian Amy Poehler has said, “If you can speak about what you care about to someone you disagree with, you just may be heard.”
Find Common Ground
Take a moment to find things you do agree upon. For example, perhaps you are discussing a current health issue. It’s a good idea to acknowledge not only your differing opinions, but also to state that you both want a solution that will benefit society. Finding common ground can help you relate to one another. You don’t necessarily have to surrender your viewpoint, but try to reach some level of consensus.
Check Yourself Before you Wreck Yourself
It’s not uncommon for conversations about controversial subjects to devolve into power-struggles. Make sure you are expressing your beliefs instead of exercising your pride. Avoid engaging in debate simply to satisfy your ego, as this can lead to things escalating out of control. Don’t allow your desire to be right become more important than your relationship.
Take a Breather
Discussions about the hot button issues have a way of going on and on forever! Those involved often go around in circles, and at some point, the conversation is no longer productive. If you find yourself hearing or repeating the same arguments, or if things become too heated, take a break. Better yet, end the conversation altogether! While you don’t necessarily need to avoid disagreement altogether, you have to know when to stop.
Disagreeing on tough issues can be done in a loving, productive way. Not every debate needs to end with one person converting to the other’s point of view; and that’s okay(especially in relationships)! By using respectful language, keeping your pride and emotions in check, and stopping if things get too intense, you can successfully agree to disagree.
Leana Sykes is a Relationship Counselor and the owner of Leana Sykes Relationship Counseling & Mediation in Oaklyn, NJ.