It's not you, it's me...
Ever been in that situation where your views on something are complexly different to someone else? Whether that’s at work, at home or in a social situation? Of course you have. It is impossible to agree with everyone, about everything, all the time.
At work it can be frustrating when we’re in a situation where there is a difference of opinion. You might be disagreeing with someone on the way to move forward on a project, or you’ve asked someone to complete an action that they don’t see any value in. Sometimes neither party is wrong, it’s just a difference of opinion but the result is an impasse and a blockage to progress. So how can we overcome this?
First some science (apologies to any actual scientists who read this for the way I describe the next few sentences. I think what I say is by and large correct).
The way we all respond to situations and challenges is based on our conscious and sub-conscious processes. Part of our sub-conscious brain is called the Amygdala and is the bit that processes the emotions and feelings we have when responding to a situation and stores them for future reference. It drives the fight or flight response and is responsible for the initial reaction to a situation. It’s also part of the ‘old brain’ function which traces back millions of years.
The Amygdala is in a constant battle with the Prefrontal Cortex, which is part of the conscious mind and enables rational thought, helping us to take better decisions by processing information around us. This bit of the brain is one of the most recent to evolve in humans and is part of the ‘new brain.’
Not one of the 7 billion people on the planet are the same, therefore our brains are unique too. It is reasonable to assume that we will all react differently to the same situation or challenge. We’re all wired differently and as soon as you accept this fact, it will help you deal with conflict.
If you find you just can’t reach an agreement with someone then try the following approach, which helps to suppress the emotional responses from the Amygdala and engage the rational Prefrontal Cortex.
Ask questions of them to get a better understanding of why the hold the view they do. Being radically open-minded to other people’s views and accepting that there are multiple paths to achieve a goal is a practice we can all benefit from.
Start by asking them what they base their views on. For example, if you want someone to do something and they don’t see the value, ask them why – but not in an accusatory way. This will get you closer to the root cause of their views. You may find that you’re closer to an agreement than you thought. Perhaps they offer up some new facts you were not previously aware of which changes your own opinion. Seeing the disagreement through the eyes of the other person not only builds empathy with them, but also helps you to challenge your own opinion and increases the probability that the right outcome will be achieved.
Or maybe you discover there’s something else going on that you need to resolve first, such as they don’t want to do the thing you’ve asked of them because they don’t have the time to complete the task, or they’re stressed or distracted by something else. You are then in a position to help them overcome that first. Ultimately, you’ve established the facts surrounding the difference of opinion and removed the emotional element which is the cause of destructive conflicts.
Unfortunately, this won’t resolve every conflict and after establishing the facts, there may still be a difference of opinion. Which is fine, because remember – we’re all wired differently and there are multiple paths to achieve the same goal. Agreeing to disagree is OK because you’ve established the facts and can move forward in a logical way rather than allowing emotions to further exacerbate the conflict.
f you like what you’ve read then you can subscribe to the site and receive a notification overtime there’s a new blog post. Click on the Login / Register button at the top of the page. We only need your email address.