Can I be totally and completely honest with you about something? Truthfully, I’m slightly scared to put this out there, for the fear of the reaction I’ll get from others when I say what I really think.
I can’t stand thin mints. To me, they are disgusting. I think mint should be reserved for toothpaste and breath fresheners, not my sweet treats. Don’t even get me started on Andes cookies.
I know this is not a popular opinion. In fact, out of the 4 people in my house, I’m the only one who thinks this way.
My family and I have chosen to respectfully disagree on the issue of the best girl scout cookie. Respectfully disagreeing with others can be challenging (especially when the stakes are bigger than which cookie is best), but it’s a critical social skill to learn and practice. How do you do it?
1. Start with kindness and respect
No matter what, remember that you are speaking to another human. Treat them well. Especially when you don’t agree. Watch your tone and your body language. Not agreeing with someone does not make it OK to be mean, nasty, condescending or disrespectful to them.
Try to imagine that the other person’s grandma is standing right behind them. Is this how you would talk to them if their nana was listening? If not, change how you are speaking with them.
2. No name calling or threats
Even if someone says something that makes you really mad, don’t start being mean and name calling. Or worse, threatening them. Refer back to #1.
3. Learn to listen.
When it’s not your turn to talk, instead of focusing on what you’re going to say next, pay attention to what the other person is saying. Otherwise, your “conversation” is actually just two people who are sharing space and delivering a monologue to each other.
4. Summarize and clarify
Make sure you understand what the other person is saying, by summarizing their points and asking if that was what they meant. Then use statements like the ones below to keep the conversation going.
I hear what you said. This is what I think…
I understand what you’re saying. Here are my thoughts…
That’s interesting. What do you think about this?
5. Try to see things from someone else’s point of view.
Have you ever heard the story of the blind men and the elephant?
Once upon a time, five blind men came upon an elephant.
The first one touched its side and said “An elephant is like a wall!”
The second one touched the elephant’s leg and said “No, an elephant is more like a pillar”
The third one touched its trunk and said “It’s too thin and flexible to be a pillar. An elephant is more like a snake”
The fourth one held the elephant’s tail and said “Snakes don’t have hair, an elephant is like a rope”
The fifth blind man felt the elephant’s ear and said “That’s not what an elephant feels like at all! It’s large, but thin and flexible like a sail.”
They are all right, yet all wrong at the same time.
Recognize that while you think your perspective is right, so does the other person. But you may both be missing the big picture. To learn more about other people and why they think the way they do, try to see things from their perspective.
6. Understand that you don’t have to agree, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be friends.
You will never agree with anyone 100%. Ever. It’s just not going to happen. For some of your friends, you may have a lot in common, and only disagree on a few minor topics. For others in your life, you may agree on much less. But maybe there’s other stuff you do have in common - like your love of science fiction or Pokemon or karate. If you enjoy that person’s company, and you have shared interests, focus on those things instead.
Perhaps you’ll revisit the topic you disagree on at a later date, and see if things changed. It’s good to practice having tough conversations, especially when you don’t agree. But always start from a place of mutual respect.
I will never agree that mint and chocolate go together, and my husband will always think I’m missing out when I don’t join him in eating frozen thin mints by the sleeve. But this disagreement doesn’t mean I don’t love him or he doesn’t love me. I just eat my Caramel DeLites and he and the kids enjoy their Thin Mints while we talk together as a family about fun things we want to do together.
I love Kid President. Here's a great video from him about how to disagree.