The art of disagreeing without being disagreeable

The art of disagreeing without being disagreeable

It’s been said before “opinions are like noses, everyone has one”. Not only do most people have opinions, some can have them on an astonishing number of topics! In fact, it’s possible to have an opinion on, well, anything. Religion, music, art, fashion, food, sports, cars, books, people and lest we forget, politics. Now, in New Zealand, especially politics.

Opinions are not bad things to have. On the contrary, to have taken a close look at something, weighed it up and measured it against our values and standards and come to an informed opinion or conclusion is a great thing to do. We can find we have vastly differing opinions from our colleagues, family and friends. There’s nothing wrong with that either.

We are all influenced by a number of things, such as our upbringing, culture, peers and parents and the experiences we have along the way. Mostly we can rub along together. There’s a lot of fun to be had having a good robust discussion and a bit of banter over a topic.

Sometimes, however, we can draw conclusions and form opinions on the slenderest of information. We can generalise, jump to conclusions, slam the door of our mind shut, dig our toes in and generally go off half cocked! Arguments are more likely to happen, not because we have differing opinions, but because of how we put them forward. I’m sure most of us can call to mind an “opinionated” table thumping, finger pointing person who insists their opinion is the only one, the correct one and the rest of us must be complete idiots! The art of delivering our opinions well lies with us being gracious. By that I mean being tactful, polite, courteous. I think it’s about trying to respond rather than reacting to a differing opinion. We can disagree without being disagreeable. Being rude and overly dismissive of others’ opinions will only result in them getting annoyed at us, and vice versa if they are rude and dismissive of our opinions. Once started, it’s difficult to stop that downward spiral. Avoid getting personal. Even if we don’t agree about the issue at hand, there’s no need to resort to putting people down to get our point across. Let’s respect their right to an opinion too.

It’s also worth thinking about how we use social media. Just because we’re not face to face with people it doesn’t give us a right to be any less considerate toward a differing opinion, or on the other hand, to rant at will at others. If someone’s views annoy us we can consider not following them, hiding the posts or blocking them.

If someone’s opinions truly rub me up the wrong way or they butt up against my values and standards then I’d be asking myself if this was someone I really wanted to spend time with. If it’s a casual acquaintance or colleague then I may just prefer to metaphorically walk away and not engage in conversation with them. That’s not being cowardly or insincere, if someone is trying force their opinions down my throat it’s unlikely they’re up for a decent conversation about it. I’ll leave the debate, banter and the chance to expand my own views with people who respect my right to an opinion as much as I respect theirs. That’s worth keeping in mind during the next week as we run up election!


Jan Aitken Life Coach

Jan Aitken is a qualified Life Coach based in Dunedin. With over 8 years of experience Jan is the coach to help propel you forward and live the life you imagine.

Jan Aitken is a qualified Life Coach based in Dunedin. With over 8 years of experience Jan is the coach to help propel you forward and live the life you imagine.


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