Dr. Rich Patterson

Disagreeing Appropriately

Today I want to speak with you about teaching our kids to disagree appropriately.  There are so many examples of people getting so angry when they disagree with someone.  They lose their temper and then a relationship is forever changed, if not worse.  Or you often hear kids say, “you’re stupid” or :”that’s stupid” which adds a value judgment to what someone has said.  Now maybe it wasn’t the brightest thing to say, but teaching our kids to not add a judgement to what has been said is a valuable and life-long lesson.

Instead of adding a value statement to what someone has said, I like to offer something like, “Well, that’s an idea, it may need some tweaking.”  Or, “What if we (include yourself even thought you don’t agree) looked at this with a different approach,” and then offer them a new way of looking at something more positively.  When you’re working with someone who looks at things negatively, if you continually steer the conversation to a different way of looking at things, they get the idea that they can’t get you to disagree negatively.

It is also important to learn how to graciously accept someone’s criticism, for example, and simply say, “I don’t see it that way, but I respect you views and thank-you for pointing that out.”  Then often times I simply vote with my feet and walk away.  If you want to or have to continue a conversation with someone whom you disagree with, then consider stopping the conversation and asking, “What is the goal of this conversation?”  That will get people to stop and think.  They will likely say, “What do you mean?”  This gives you a chance to steer the conversation toward something productive.  You can say, “Well, I don’t see it the way you do and would like to find some common ground in our conversation.  What is your goal?”  This will very often lead to them saying, “Well, yes, I guess we don’t need to get into an argument here.”  Then the conversation can take off from there.

The best way to teach this to kids who are eighth grade and up, maybe even seventh grade, 12-13 year old’s, is to role play it with them.  Role playing is fun and is a great way to give kids some first hand skill at thinking on their feet without losing their temper.

I hope you will find this helpful.  If so, leave me a comment below.

Rich