Let’s agree to disagree could mean a lot of things:
- I am tired of the conflict but don’t want to give in either.
- I want you to stop badgering me.
- I don’t see any chance of finding a common ground.
- Compromise is not an option.
- I respect your position and will stop trying to convince you.
- I’m right, you think you’re right, and I won’t push it.
Usually, it means we’ve reached an impasse and rather than escalate the conflict, we call a truce.
What happens next? How do you feel? How does it affect your relationship? Do you ever find a solution?
There might be a better way. It’s called Compassionate Accountability.
Conflict doesn’t have to be avoided. In fact, conflict can be a creative force when used correctly.
Here are four steps to continuing healthy conflict when approaching an impasse. Try these to increase the potential for a breakthrough.
▪ Step 1: Disclose how you feel
Are you angry? Anxious? Embarrassed? Defensive? It’s OK to share that.
Revealing your feelings, as long as you take responsibility for them, is OK. Don’t blame anyone, and don’t use feelings that give the other person power, like “attacked” or “disrespected.” These aren’t legitimate feelings because they absolve you of responsibility.
Sharing your feelings can be scary, especially when you’ve been working hard to protect yourself from what seems like an adversarial interaction. Ironically, it’s quite disarming.
▪ Step 2: Offer resources and options
What are you willing to contribute to to help work through this conflict? What information are you willing to share, hear, or go get in order to move things forward? What are you willing to do to help the process along?
Whatever you do, avoid offering advice to the other person. Keep it focused on you.
▪ Step 3: Discern and share what’s at stake
What is this really about for you? What core principles or values are at stake for you? Is it a belief system you want to hold on to? Your pride? Your reputation? A commitment you made to another person?
If you don’t dig deep and identify why you are having such a hard time finding common ground with the other person, you will continue to behave adversarially.
▪ Step 4: Open up and listen
I bet that right before you agreed to disagree you were vehemently advocating your position, or finding fault with the other person’s position, or approaching a boundary you didn’t want to cross.
It’s OK to temporarily put that agenda on hold and take some time to really understand the other person’s point of view.
Imagine you are guiding them through steps 1 through 3 above by asking questions to learn about their feelings, resources and principles at stake. You’d be amazed how flexible another person can become when they feel heard.
Nate Regier is CEO and co-founding owner of Next Element Consulting, a global leadership communication advisory and training firm based in Newton. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 316-772-6174.