Disagreeing Without Being Disagreeable

Learning how to disagree without being disagreeable is sometimes a matter of understanding different types of people.

Some people have a short temper. I had a partner who had a short temper. He would snap at people. Shortly after he lost his temper, his anger would pass. He realized that his short temper hurt him in his relationships. He developed ways to back away from situations until he could calm down and think things through. To gather his composure and deal with things with he was not in the heat of the moment, he would simply ask, “May I get back with you later?”

If the person would press him on the matter, he would simply say,” I need to get back to you.” Then he would sit quietly or change the subject. He would go back to the discussion when he had time to think about what he wanted to say and could say those things calmly.

He learned a way for him that would allow him to disagree without being disagreeable.

When I am dealing with a person with short temper, I know that when they start to show emotion, I can help keep things positive when I give the person some time to think through a discussion.

Some people are needy.  Sometimes when someone comes to me with a problem, I try to listen and think about what the person is saying.  Sometimes people just need someone to listen to what is going on with them. I may disagree with everything the person has to say.  However, if they simply need me to listen to them, getting into a disagreement may have little point.

I may simply say to the person, “If I were standing where you are standing, I suppose that I would feel the same way.”

Another thing that I can do is let the person talk out their feelings and change the subject.  If they ask for my opinion, I can do what my partner would do.  I would simply ask to get back to the person later.

Some people have hot buttons.  When people have a hot buttons, they go stop flying the plane and go on autopilot.  It is as though the person is playing a recording.  This type of behavior is especially true in discussions about politics, religion, and sports.

I actually had an affiliate who was a sports trivia expert.  He had intense feelings about sports teams and athletes.  He would invent issues about players and teams and question me about them.  I had never considered these issues.  I had no interest in these issues.

I found that my life was easier and more productive when I did not speak with this person.  I broke off the relationship.

When dealing with a person’s hot buttons, I find that disagreeing but not being disagreeable is just not possible. I just try not to push the person’s hot button.

Some people are bullies.  In a volunteer program, I worked with a man who had learned to bully people verbally to protect himself.  He was insecure about himself physically.  He grew up in a familiar that was a member of a religious minority.  He felt different from other students in school.  He found that he could intimidate people through his personality.  He would criticize the performance of the other volunteers.  He would take over projects and manage them with authority whether he had that authority or not.  When a person stood to him for his behavior, he would apologize.  Then he would behave the same way again.

The bully developed a sense of entitlement over his role in the projects he managed.  He would not rotate out of these roles.  He would not make room for other workers to rotate into them.

After several years, the service committee for the volunteer group ended the behavior.  First, the committee voted to put specific people into the jobs that the bully had taken over without authority.  Second, two of the committee members took it on themselves to meet with the bully over his behavior in one specific incident.  The incident occurred during the transfer of the bully’s responsibility to another volunteer.  During the meeting with the bully, the two members explained that his behavior was not isolated and some members had left the volunteer program over his behavior.

The bully is still with the volunteer organization.  He occasionally resorts to his old behavior.  However, working with this volunteer organization is important to him.  He quickly responds when he becomes aware that he is repeating his old behavior and steps away from projects where he has caught himself out of line.

Sometimes people are hungry or tired.  Dealing with disagreements when people are hungry or tired is never a good idea.  Emotions are greater.  Minds are less clear.  People are more likely to make bad decisions and behave poorly.  People can damage relationships for the long-term.

There is a reason people say, “Things look better in the morning.”  In the morning after breakfast, people are neither hungry nor tired.

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