Have you felt frustrated because someone close to you just doesn’t ‘get it,’ even though you’ve explained your point over and over? During those times, do you feel yourself getting enraged or shaking your head in disgust? Being understood takes work.
We’re often under the illusion that if only the other person understood ‘the facts’ (as we see them), he’d embrace our position. When he doesn’t, we’re perplexed and frustrated. In those moments, it’s hard to imagine that the other person has his own version of ‘the facts.’ Or, that what we feel strongly about may differ from his deeply entrenched beliefs. And that as strongly as you believe you’re right, he believes you’re wrong.
So what can you do if you are in such a helpless position? Just give up? Spew venom? Walk away disgusted? Yes, those are the easy options. But, if you really care about the relationship, here are other options that may lead you down a more productive path.
Be curious about how the other person came to think the way he thinks.
Sometimes, it all makes sense once you understand another’s background and experience. (“What makes you feel so strongly about this issue?”)
Tell me more.
If the other person opens up and shares something how he thinks, don’t shut down the conversation with a dis (i.e. “I can’t believe you think that way.”) Instead, ask the person for more details about his beliefs.
Look for a point of agreement.
Even if you differ strongly on 90% of things, there’s probably something that you can both agree on. If so, state it respectfully.
(“At least, we both recognize that this is a serious matter.”)
Make your point with a respectful statement, not a demeaning question.
(“The way I look at it is…” is preferable to “Why can’t you see what’s so obvious?”)
Tell a personal story to illustrate your point.
People tend to soften when they listen to such stories.
(“My father was in Vietnam and this is what he shared with me…”)
Frame your position in a way that makes sense to you rather than defending yourself from an attack.
(“It’s not that I’m against setting rules for kids; its that I believe in letting kids learn from their own mistakes.” )
When someone is trying to ‘hook you,’ don’t take the bait.
(“Your calling me names does not help us understand each other better.”)
Create closure to your conversation before you say what you may later regret.
(“Clearly we see things differently; we’re not going to change each other. So, let’s agree to disagree and call it a day.”)
I’d like to be clear that these suggestions are not geared toward getting the other person to change or to agree with you. They are simply ways to open up the dialogue between people who view things differently.
Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and success coach in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior.