Two students in masks sitting on a bench talking to each other.

Whether it’s a friend, family member, roommate or professor, chances are you’ll find yourself caught in a disagreement with someone at some point. While we may not always share the same views as those around us, it can be helpful to have tools to work through disagreements in a productive way.

Here are five things you can do when you disagree with someone:

Talk about it

What’s your conflict style?

Everyone experiences and handles conflict differently. Learning how you approach conflict can help you be more successful in resolving conflicts. Encourage your friends, family and roommates to take the quiz so you can compare results and work together to come up with ways to handle potential conflicts. 

Take the quiz

It may feel easier to address issues through emails, texts or social media, but this can make conflicts worse. Talking in person, on the phone or through video chat allows you to read and respond to body language, tone and other subtle cues that may have been missed if you took the conversation online.

Listen for understanding

Sometimes in disagreements, we unintentionally focus on “winning” the argument and proving our point. However, when this happens, we may lose sight of the bigger picture. Instead of listening to respond, focus on listening to understand. Allow the other person to share their point of view without interrupting. Ask questions to ensure you understand their perspective before forming your own response. If things get heated or too intense, it’s okay to take a break and continue the conversation later once you’ve both had time to cool off. 

Consider intent vs. impact

What you say and what the other person hears isn’t always the same. Think about the intent and possible impact of your words, tone and body language. If you notice someone seems bothered, ask if they would be willing to share how they were impacted by what you said. Understanding the impact we have had on other people can help us clarify our intent, correct miscommunications and get on the same page.

Keep an open mind

College is a time to learn and grow. Being open to new ideas and the experience of others can help us navigate similar situations in the future. Take this as an opportunity to expand your perspective and gain a deeper understanding of others. 

Find common ground

When we find ourselves in disagreements, it can be easy to focus on the ways we are different. However, it is more important to spend time finding common ground. Look for ways that you can compromise while considering the needs of yourself and the other person. Remember, the goal isn’t to “win”. The goal is to come to an understanding and solution you can both agree on.

While conflict can be uncomfortable, it can help us to develop skills and practice working through disagreements. These skills can help us long term when we face conflicts in the future with our coworkers, boss, family or friends. Conflict Resolution is here to help and offers free conflict support services. These include one-on-one conflict coaching, mediation and facilitated conversations. Learn more about conflict resolution.