You are Both Right


In our years together, my wife and I have never had a fight.  Someone once responded to that, saying, “Don’t hold it all in, it’s not healthy.”  I replied that I wasn’t holding anything in, we had just never had any problem more important than our relationship and how we each treat each other.

Really, we don’t hold problems in. We openly discuss any issues, without guilt or demand.  We may not always agree.  And like everyone, we have days where we may be more easily irritated by life (or each other) but we don’t let that lead to fights.

There have been times where we could have easily had a fight.  Whether it is from life experiences or something else, we both share a common belief that each of us (1) does not have to be “right” and (2) if you listen when someone honestly (and respectfully) shares a problem, you can usually see their point.  Often it is a great point.  If you listen and honestly respect what you hear.

Disagreements and arguments are situations where communication can be the cause, a contributing cause or a solution.

In a disagreement, each party believes they are right and the other party is not.  One thing I notice when observing disagreements (and, unfortunately in years past, participating at times), is that usually each person is right.  That is, at least they are right from their perspective.

That perspective may include different information than the other person.  It may include different personalities, experiences, agendas, preconceived ideas, fear, existing bias and a host of other differences.

Self-esteem issues can even lead someone to refuse information that might change their perspective. Essentially, a major commitment to the original idea that must be defended from anything that might change the perspective.

A communication tool for avoiding and even defusing disagreements is to focus on the issue from the other person’s viewpoint.  It does not mean you have to like it or agree with it.  Just make a genuine effort to understand why they may think differently.  Have empathy and you can often find common points that can be the beginning of resolution.

It is often said, “Never argue with someone that knows they are right.”  This is very true.  And it does not mean that you have to agree with someone or even cede your position.  To me, it just means that someone that is absolutely convinced they are 100% right will likely not even consider a different position.  Arguing with them only wastes your time and energy while the “right” person just builds more defenses against new opinions and information.

Once a disagreement becomes an emotionally heated argument, effective communication (and even an effective relationship) are difficult.   It takes more than one person to have an argument.  I find it interesting how easy it can be for people to find someone else that will join in and make it a fight.  Just as it “takes two to tango,” it takes at least two to fight.

I am not suggesting, in any way, that you concede your ideas and beliefs.  On the contrary, I believe that boundaries are very healthy and compromise should be appropriate, not something demanded by others.  I am suggesting you will decrease your effectiveness if you let a disagreement become a power struggle and a heated personal battle.

Can we always agree?  Of course not.  But not all disagreements are necessary and many arguments are simply communication problems, not true differences of opinion.

Learn to have empathy for the views of others. Overcome any emotional need to win or for others to lose. Be willing to consider new information, both for and against your position.  And realize that sometimes you really do have to respectfully agree to disagree.

After all, if we all shared the same opinion on everything, think how boring life would be!


About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.