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How to Handle Differences of Opinion

by eHow Relationships & Family Editor

It doesn't matter if it's in a family, friendship, at church or work, disagreements and differences of opinion will happen. Each person has a unique way of viewing the world, so conflict isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, differences of opinion often foster open communication and change. Follow these steps to handle a difference of opinion with someone you know.

Speak face to face. Tone of voice, facial expression and other nonverbal cues are lost in email. Talk in person first then follow up with an email, memo or letter.

Meet in a neutral place. Try a conference room at the office, a public park or the coffee shop down the street. Talking in a different atmosphere encourages candidness and honesty.

Consider the other person's point of view and remain open even if you feel attacked. Use "I" statements to avoid playing the blame game.

Clarify the problem. Confusion is a breeding ground for miscommunication, so take time on the front end to work through the details of the misunderstanding.

Discuss the facts of the difference of opinion calmly and openly and when appropriate, how you both feel about it. Sharing your feelings isn't just a touchy-feely exercise, it actually can disarm any defensive and hostile walls that are a barrier to good communication.

Find common ground and go from there. There has to be something that the two of you agree on, so once you find it, focus on the positivity in your agreement.

Realize that there is a great potential to learn from each other's mistakes. Consider this experience a learning one that will serve you well down the road.

Tips

  • Be honest yet sensitive to the other person's feelings.
  • If you assume anything, assume the best and stay optimistic about the outcome.
  • When emotions are charged, meeting at your home, in your office or your coworker's home or office automatically taints the conversation with a negative atmosphere.
  • Avoid becoming defensive and putting the other person on the defensive.
  • Avoid email or other written communication for a period of time. Tone of voice, facial expression and other nonverbal cues are lost in email.

Warnings

  • Refrain from any negative talk, gossip or backbiting about the other person.
  • While it is wise to have a person as a sounding board, be discreet about the difference of opinion or disagreement until the matter is resolved. Involving numerous family members, coworkers, friends or others only serves to blow up the issue rather than quickly resolve it.