How to Have a Reasonable Conversation with Someone You Disagree With

A not-so-simple and overly-simplified guide to having reasonable conversations with someone you disagree with:

  1. Find something you absolutely agree on and use it as a way to bring you both back to center.
  2. Let go of being right for a bit. In the grand scheme of things, unless you are about to pass a piece of legislation and the two of you are the swing vote, who is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong’ matters less in this conversation than you might think.
  3. When in doubt be on their side. “I’m on your side, we both want (shared value). Your perspective is different from mine and I want to understand.”
  4. Try to understand their point of view. Not to dismantle it, (and this is an important distinction) but to actually, truly get it. You might learn something new, or you might learn something new about how they make choices. Both are important and helpful down the road.
  5. Imagine you totally agreed with their point of view, what might you add to the conversation with good intent? Check your understanding with them.
  6. Share things that you’ve learned, and ask for their point of view. “I’m still concerned about this piece of information. What are your thoughts about that?”
  7. State their good intent. What do you think they care about?
  8. State your good intent. What is your desired outcome beyond this conversation.
  9. Thank them for their input, and acknowledge how hard it is to have a reasonable conversation. “Talking to you means a lot to me. I appreciate your willingness to walk me through your perspective. It’s different than mine, so this could have easily devolved into an unproductive conversation.”



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Aden Nepom

Aden Nepom is president of The Art of Change Skills for Life and host of The Changed Podcast. She’s a pragmatic and playful advisor on communication and change.