By Marybeth Bock

No matter how hard we may try to avoid conflict in our life, disagreement will always be a part of it. Therefore, learning how to disagree respectfully is an important life skill to develop while you’re still a teenager. Because the reality is, there are a good number of adults who don’t know how to do it!

Here are a few tips to consider and remember so that you are able to keep disagreements respectful and productive.

1 Listen first. If you listen respectfully to the other person’s words first, you increase the chance that they’ll do the same for you. Instead of simply thinking about how you’re going to respond to someone else’s words, give them the opportunity to completely express their perspective. When it’s your turn, repeat back the main point the other person was making, to show that you really heard what they said, and then begin your own response.

2 Try to avoid judging the other person’s beliefs and feelings. Instead of calling someone’s ideas “stupid” or “unfair,” try a statement like “I disagree with that, and here’s why.” You’ll have a better chance of being heard if you don’t resort to rude comments that just produce anger.

3 Stay calm. This can definitely be challenging, especially if the other person is yelling, or when you both feel passionately about the topic you’re discussing. Try your best to be the mature one, even when you may be disagreeing with an adult who is having trouble staying calm. Taking some deep breaths always helps.

4 Use “I” statements when communicating how you feel and expressing what you’d like to see happen after the discussion. Here’s an example.  When you feel like telling your friend, “You always say we’ll hang out on the weekends and you never text me,” try something like, “I’m feeling a little left out. I’d love it if we could make plans now for next weekend.” “I” statements come across as much less confrontational.

5 Don’t take things personally. It’s always helpful to keep the focus on the issue being raised, not the person you’re discussing it with. We tend to get into disagreements with people we have connections with, like parents, teachers, and friends. It’s good to remember that it’s okay to get mad at ideas and choices, without getting mad at the people you care about.

When you can navigate an uncomfortable disagreement with respect and calm, you display a great deal of maturity and usually receive respect in return.