Recently I have been preparing for a trip to China to teach parenting principles. During this preparation a woman said to me, “What if someone stands up and yells at you while you are speaking? What will you do? The things you teach will be very different for their culture and some people may not agree. What will you do?”
This question got me thinking. I have to admit, first I thought, “Hmmm, I never thought of that. I’ve never had anyone get angry during a presentation before. It would be a first.” However, the second thing to come to my mind was, “I have no problem with a person disagreeing, as long as they do it appropriately. People’s opinions need to be heard, but they are not worth hearing unless the person can be civil and respectful. I know I can be appropriate, so I am not worried.”
I told my friend that if a person stood up and became aggressive during the presentation then I would calmly look at him and say, “Sir, you obviously have something you want to tell me, and I would like hear what that is but you will need to wait until after the presentation speak with me. I would be happy to have a calm discussion with you then.” Then I would go on with my presentation.
These are the exact steps I follow when disagreeing appropriately with someone.
- Look at the person
- Keep a calm voice, face, and body
- Say that you understand the other person’s side, or point of view
- Tell your point of view
- Be Okay
The Psychology Behind The Steps
Look at the person is part of all the skills I teach for good communication because it shows you are ready to really understand the other person. It also shows you are open to them. When you allow someone to look into your eyes, you give the message that you are honestly communicating and that you have nothing to hide. If someone can’t look at you when you are talking to them, or when they are disagreeing, then they might not want you to see something they are thinking or feel their spirit.
The eyes really are the window to the soul, and looking into someone’s eyes is the easiest way to connect with them on a deeper level. Every night when I tuck my children into bed, I look right into their eyes and have a short heart-felt conversation. This conversation is very meaningful to them and me, because we really feel each other and see into each other. Look at the person.
Keeping a calm voice, face, and body is probably the hardest part of learning how to disagree appropriately because it requires a lot of self control to choose calmness instead of emotional outburst. William Jordan said that without calmness you are like a rudderless ship. You are drifting and crashing, instead of going securely into port. By teaching ourselves and our children to deliberately choose calmness, we choose communication freedom for all; and power. A person who can choose to really be calm has great power; the kind of power no one can ever take away. Keep a calm voice, face, and body.
Saying that you understand the other person’s perspective is a very mature thing to do. It is selfless and shows that you want to understand the person talking more than you want to defend yourself. When one person chooses self control instead of defensive emotions, that person cannot be manipulated or over powered. That person assumes the driver position in the discussion.
Everyone wants to feel understood, so if you say you understand what the person wants you to hear, then they have no need to keep being angry. Feeling understood gives a person an anxiety release, which begins the calming process. Said simply, as soon as you say and show you understand a person, they usually begin calming down right then. Say that you understand the other person’s point of view.
Telling your point of view is the dangerous part of the whole thing. If your point of view is emotional at that point, you could destroy the whole moment of appropriate disagreement. Make sure you are still calm and then gently, slowly, share what you think. Try not to be abusive in speech toward the person you are speaking to. Be rational, and wise. Focus on key principles which can help you solve the problem you are facing. Make sure you keep mentally acknowledging how the person you are speaking to is accepting your opinion. Keep your words short. No lectures! They never work; in fact they show lack of trust and disrespect. The less you say, the more the spirit of love can say. And, when that feeling of love can be felt, then the heart of the person can really change. Tell your point of view.
Being okay is a little bit different terminology than I would normally use to teach this to a child, but works for adult situations. I teach children to accept whatever answer the parent gives, by saying, “okay.” However, when you are dealing with a person who has no authority over you then you don’t need to do what they say, unless you want to. You don’t need to say, “okay,” but you should always be okay. The most important thing is that you accept that what ever happens next isn’t your choice or doing.
Accepting whatever happens next means that you acknowledge the person chose an action and that it was their choice. This doesn’t mean that you have to go along with what the person said, it just means you are choosing to be okay emotionally no matter what they do after your appropriate disagreement. Be okay.
What if everyone learned how to appropriately disagree? What would our world be like if parents and children treated each other with that kind of love and respect? How would people’s attitudes change? What would happen to the happiness and productivity of families and businesses, schools, and churches? I know all these questions lead to a perfect picture, and that this perfect picture isn’t realistically possible. But, these questions make me think. They make me wonder if some of the people in jail perhaps wouldn’t be there, and if this disagreeing appropriately skill could possibly be one of the most important social skills I master and teach my children for a happier life.
I want my children to be happy and successful in their relationships of all kinds. I want them to have the skills to solve problems with others, so I teach them how to disagree appropriately. And, I start when they are really little. I know this seems like a really complicated skill to learn, but my children have all mastered it at surprisingly young ages. We role play it and they see it is a good communication skill.
As a treat for you here are two links to videos of children role playing disagreeing appropriately with their mother. When this mother surprised me by sending me this footage, I knew I just had to share it. It is priceless, and definitely shows that this complex of a self-government skill can be learned at young ages.
Let’s Talk About These For a Minute:
Did you notice how the mommy’s first response to each disagreement was to change her mind an say okay? The reason she did this was to teach her children that when they choose to have good self-government, then usually things go their way. This is very smart teaching, because it is usually true, but not always.
After she practiced telling them that they could have or do what they asked then she prepped them for new interactions where she was going to keep with her original decision of no. Because the children know the skill well they were prepared to say, okay after their disagreement was heard. Children need to be able to do this skill. In fact we all do. How often do we pray that something in our life will change and God has different plans? We need to be able to say okay, and be okay when he says no to our disagreements too.
This is one smart mommy! I wish I would have been taught this skill at such a young age. It would have saved me so much grief as a youngster and helped my relationships with my parents so much.
From The Mommy
This is what the mommy of Emma and Michael wrote me in her email which accompanied the video clips. I thought you would enjoy reading it.
“My husband and I have attended Nicholeen’s parenting seminar twice, and we have read her book. We have employed many of the principles and practices she discusses therein, including the 4 Basic Skills. This has made a huge impact in our home. Our children are ages 4 and 5. They know how to follow instructions, how to speak respectfully, how to accept a no answer and how to disagree appropriately. We had a big problem with our daughter and temper tantrums. We’re talking full-blown 90 minute doozeys. We continued reinforcing the basic skills we had already taught her. It took time, but she eventually realized she didn’t get her way when she melted down. She did, however, sometimes get what she wanted by disagreeing appropriately. We tried to reward this proactive behavior by saying yes as often as possible when she employed “disagreeing appropriately.” It has greatly helped the atmosphere in our home. There is no more negotiating, power struggles, yelling, crying, etc. It’s wonderful! I recommend that every parent learn what these principles are and work to implement them in their homes.”
Nicholeen answers parenting questions on her blog: