Two men disagreeing on a on a building site

Communicating with someone you disagree with

Respectfully disagreeing with friends, family members or colleagues isn’t an easy thing to do. Many of us avoid confrontation altogether because disagreements make us feel too uncomfortable. But it’s normal to disagree with others from time to time. Learning how to deal with difficult situations is an important life skill – especially in today’s increasingly complex world.


“It’s normal to disagree with others from time to time.”


Disagreeing with empathy and without emotion will help you maintain your relationships. Don’t use personal insults or put down your friend’s ideas. And keep in mind that hearing different ideas and perspectives is an important way to learn something new and open your mind.

So, next time you know you’re about to see someone you disagree with, don’t avoid confrontation altogether. Use these strategies to help you communicate respectfully with friends who have different opinions.


Strategies to help you communicate respectfully

Remember: It’s okay to disagree

Worried a disagreement spells the end of a relationship? Don’t be. It’s normal to disagree with your friends. You don’t need to approve of everything your friends believe in to maintain friendships or get along well with others. There may be some fundamental topics that are friendship dealbreakers, though. You’ll need to decide how strongly you feel about certain issues and determine how potential disagreements may affect your future relationships.


Listen and acknowledge

When communicating with someone who has opposing viewpoints, always listen to the other person’s point of view first and acknowledge their perspective. Acknowledgement doesn’t mean you agree with them. When you listen without interrupting or getting angry, you’re showing your friend that you care about them. Your friend will feel heard and valued, which means they’ll be more likely to reciprocate and listen to you, too. Listen to your friend speak, then respond with empathy and grace. When you use phrases like “you always say that” or “that’s a stupid idea”, you sound argumentative. Focus on what your friend is saying, not what you want to say when they finish talking.


Adopt the right mindset

If you know you’re about to have a conversation with someone who thinks differently from you, prepare yourself mentally beforehand. Approach the conversation with good intentions and adopt a positive mindset. Be willing to keep the conversation calm, and don’t have difficult conversations unless you’re ready. A good intention mindset involves keeping an open mind, too. Try to understand the reasons why you both disagree on specific topics. When you know the meaning behind the different perspectives, you can communicate more effectively, using logic instead of emotion.


Make your point

After you’ve carefully listened to your friend’s points, make your point clearly and calmly. Explain the reasons for your perspective and the sources you base your ideas on, not just your opinion. Reasons can persuade people to change their minds or think differently, and they’re more powerful than opinions alone.


Stay calm

It isn’t easy to stay calm when you’re debating a controversial topic. But it’s essential to keep a level head when you’re having difficult conversations. Staying calm will help you argue more effectively and keep the conversation on track – especially if your friend is becoming emotional. If the discussion is becoming too heated, it’s okay to call it a day and change the subject. Sometimes that’s the best resolution when it comes to difficult conversations.


Where to get help

MensLine Australia is the national telephone and online support, information and referral service for men with family and relationship concerns. The service supports men who want to better manage their relationships with their family, friends, colleagues or anyone else in their lives. The service also supports men who have concerns about their mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Want extra support to help you navigate a difficult situation? Phone MensLine Australia o1300 78 99 78 or access free video and online counselling.

MensLine Australia Changing for Good program

Changing for Good is a program to help men stop using violence in their family and relationships.

We work with men to help them recognise their abusive behaviours and end their use of violence. By providing ongoing support, specialist counselling and resources, our goal is to help men make and sustain changes in violent or abusive behaviours as well as attitudes that support violent behaviours. By working with men to end their use of violence, we help to increase the safety of women and children who have or are experiencing domestic or family violence. To find out more, visit Changing for Good.