Have you ever noticed how threatened you can feel when someone doesn’t agree with you? Over-identification with your thoughts is the culprit. Believing you are your opinions when, in reality, you are far more.
Why is it so crucial for our intimates agree with us? Is it all ego? Must we prove we’re right to get that short-lived thrill of besting someone else? Do we use winning arguments as a way of establishing dominance or superiority? Perhaps, the short-lived thrill comes at the long-term expense of setting up an adversarial environment? How could this not take a toll on our closest relationships?
It’s easy to feel on guard when someone doesn’t see things the same way, especially if they are a partner, child, parent, or best friend. It’s only a tiny step from perceiving a threat (whether real or imagined) to acting angrily; but, with practice, you can change your thoughts and ratchet down your reaction.
The following is a short list of some new ways to think when someone’s opinion differs from yours.
1. There has to be something I can learn here.
2. Agreeing with their position doesn’t take anything away from me.
3. What if I let myself really listen to what they have to say, rather than immediately constructing a retort to make my view more compelling?
4. I respect this person in so many ways, maybe they have a point.
5. Let me try on their belief for a minute to see how it feels.
6. What if I thought this way? How would my life be different?
Once you have set the stage, and feel more open, you can start using some simple behavioral techniques to increase your intellectual and emotional flexibility, and encourage undefensiveness.
When you next find yourself in a situation where someone’s sparring for a fight try:
1.Take a breath and give yourself a moment to collect your thoughts and decrease your emotional intensity.
2. Agree with something they are saying.
3. Use the Oreo approach: say something positive, then say what you think as gently as possible, then say something else positive.
4. Have an exit strategy in mind, so you can take a break and regroup, even if it means asking to use the bathroom, or getting a glass of water.
In time, these new responses will become second nature. Discussions will be less likely to escalate into arguments. You will feel more in control and less anxious about interacting with others because you have practiced new ways of thinking and behaving.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang