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Home » Decision Making, Featured, Goal Setting, Headline, Problem Solving

Resolve Disputes: Agree to Disagree

Submitted by on October 16, 2012 – 11:39 pmNo Comment

Author: Julie Molner And Lynn Hull

When a nasty dispute arises within a business environment, a friendship, a family or love relationship – even between nations – most of the time it could be avoided. That does not mean that everyone has to agree on everything or that some people have to give in to others in order to avoid a dispute. What it does mean is that everyone can maintain her/his opinion while respecting the opinion of others. The first step in agreeing to disagree is to listen to the other without judgment, knowing that it is okay to have different opinions; it is okay to disagree. In other words, agree to disagree.


When a disagreement first occurs, if each person is willing to listen in this non-judgmental way, then every voice can be heard and everyone will gain a better understanding of the other. From this position of greater understanding, a compromise of sorts can usually be negotiated – finding that middle ground where it can be a win-win rather than a win-lose.

In the world we often see bitter conflicts between nations; each side apparently determined that there should be no win-win situation despite the horrendous losses that result from war. Many times it requires the intervention of third parties to provide the cool, unequivocal and calming negotiating skills so badly needed to bring about something resembling a peaceful settlement. At the end of the day, it is worth remembering that conflict is man-made, a product of the beliefs of those wielding power, sometimes called collective egoism.

To achieve win-win in any dispute it may be necessary to set aside the issue for a time and then revisit it at a later date. That is definitely the right move if emotions are running high. To be effective, the discussion must be rational and constructive. With emotions set aside, each party will be better able to define and communicate appropriately and respectfully what is acceptable and what is completely unacceptable. This creates a negotiating stance and from there reasonable compromises can be identified. Taking a one-step-at-a-time approach makes it very possible to arrive at a resolution that is mutually acceptable.


In situations where there is really no need to agree because neither party is truly affected by the other’s opinion – it may simply be a conversation sharing opinions – it can be very easy to agree to disagree. Yet, that is not what usually occurs especially when discussing topics that are ‘hot’ for some people, like religion or politics. Much of the time, people do not agree to disagree – some do not even have the slightest notion that it is an option. In these cases, emotions and unconscious motives are usually in control. People want others to agree with them – they want to be ‘right’. Indeed fanaticism stems from the firm belief that ‘right’ is totally on their side – which of course is a belief shared by the other side who also think they have ‘right’ on their side! We’ve all experienced a situation when someone got into a strong convincing mode which then escalated into an argumentative stance. Nothing but ‘being right’ and having agreement from others would satisfy the person. Tolerance is not usually a word in such a person’s vocabulary.

We can surmise that one possible reason a person behaves this way is because she/he ‘needs’ to be right. This person could be looking for a mirror that would validate her/his beliefs, thoughts and actions. Without this ‘mirror’ she/he may feel insecure and uncertain of herself/himself. This can be and many times is an unconscious thought pattern. The person is not necessarily consciously aware of the deep sense of insecurity and uncertainty she/he carries.

Then too this person could also be a bit more extreme in her/his narcissistic traits. We all have narcissistic traits – a certain amount of self-centeredness and self-regard is needed and is healthy. However, there are many whose narcissistic traits are more excessive and intense. Basically someone who fits this description has little regard for others and is only concerned with her/his own gratification and dominance. This person is typically unable to understand that the needs, opinions, feelings, etc. of others are just as important as her/his. And again, these tend to be unconscious patterns.


Another possible reason for trying to convince is that the person may be very passionate about the topic and doesn’t realize the impact they are creating with their expressed zeal. When a person is very passionate about something, there is a tendency or a need to get others to fully understand and ‘get it’. Although being passionate and having a strong conviction about a topic is a good thing, it is always beneficial to notice the impact one is having on the other person. Burning passion may be what one person feels, the impact of it on another may be perceived as aggressive, especially where that passion or conviction is not shared. So, in such a case, the best way to win people over – if that is what is required – is not to get more passionate, but less, and watch and listen to how those being addressed are receiving the information

Thus agreeing to disagree, or finding a way to compromise, could bring us a much more peaceful world with far less aggression and far less stress. this applies to the micro relationship level right the way through to macro international diplomatic talks.

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About the Author

Lynn Hull and Julie Molner, professional life coaches, co-authored “Your Life Your Way: The Essential Guide for Women” despite living across the Atlantic Ocean from one another. They are passionate about the unlimited possibilities that exist for all!

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