The Office

Differing Opinions and How to Talk About It


Everyone Has an Opinion

There are all sorts of issues that polarize human beings. For example, you may have different opinions regarding religion or politics than your neighbors. Still, there is an expectation that these differing opinions don’t necessarily lead to any hostility or confrontation. Technology has also changed how we talk to each other since social media allows us to have conversations with people that we never actually met in real life.

Hundreds of millions of people use social media every day, and they all might have very different opinions and perspectives. Some people might not truly understand how to discuss and talk through these different opinions in a civil manner. Abortion, for example, is a polarizing topic that could lead to a hostile discussion. Here are some tips on how to disagree with other people while remaining calm and rational.

Think About Timing

There are some situations where it just isn’t time to discuss a controversial topic. For example, let’s say that you disagree with your friend about politics. You may have wanted to plan a conversation with them regarding different opinions on a specific topic and plan to bring it up.

Of course, if it is that person’s birthday and they are celebrating at a bar with other friends, this would be a terrible time to bring up politics at all. People should make sure that they talk through differing opinions in a more comfortable atmosphere of some kind. If you are alone at your house and invite your friend over, it might make more sense to speak more freely about different opinions in that setting.

Look for Agreements

It is very unlikely that you will run into someone that simply disagrees with everything that you think. One of the best ways to talk about differing opinions is to find common ground and start the conversation from there. This could potentially change the entire tone of the interaction, as your conversation partner might be able to see things from your perspective easier.

Think about points that you might be willing to concede or reconsider and speak about how they might be right about certain parts of an issue. No one wants to feel like they are being tricked or persuaded into a debate, because that can be quite uncomfortable. However, they might be more willing to talk if they understand that you don’t disagree with them on everything. For example, phrases like, “Can we agree that people deserve safety?” or “Can we agree that someone’s healthcare is their private business?” are helpful in finding common ground.

Listen More

Let’s say that you want to speak with an old friend about a topic that you know that you feel strongly about. You might bring up the topic and make it clear that you want to speak about it. At this point, they might agree that it is an excellent time to speak about the topic. What if you just rambled on for the next five minutes about how that friend is wrong for their opinion? That wouldn’t be conducive to a conversation.

If you put yourself in their shoes, it’s easy to see how you might feel as though you are being attacked. One of the best ways to speak through differing opinions is to listen more. Individuals should clarify that they actively want to know what your conversation partner is thinking and that their perspective is valued. To continue listening, try paraphrasing back their ideas or asking something like, “By saying [X], are you meaning [Y]?” and you can learn more about where they’re coming from.

Don’t Say “But”

You might be very passionate about your opinion, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, you shouldn’t be interrupting the other person in the conversation because you are burning to counter their point. If you find that you keep telling that person, “But–”, it might be a sign that you are listening only to talk, rather than actively listening to your conversation partner.

If you are not even giving the other person room to speak, they might feel as though it is useless to elaborate on their position. You will probably find that if you let the other person in the conversation speak, they might feel like it’s easier to talk to you.

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