We all have disagreements from time to time and emotions can run high when we feel our opinion is not being heard or respected. It's important to agree on the terms of a "fair argument" before the confrontation takes place. Here are a few of my etiquette tips for navigating conflict when you are faced with a difference of opinion.
Select the appropriate time and place. Give yourself a few moments to calm down before jumping into a heated debate. Meet at a location where you can speak freely, without the fear of being overheard. For a personal discussion such as a breakup, avoid a restaurant or busy coffee shop (unless you anticipate a scene).
Don't let your anger take over. Bottling up your feelings may result in one small transgression turning into a roaring fire. Address what is bothering you as soon as possible. Stay focused on the current issue, not bringing up things that have happened in the past, unless it's pertinent to the conversation. Repressed frustrations are easily escalated and it's better to have a calm, respectful exchange rather than a screaming match where no one wins and everyone comes away bruised.
Choose your battles. Not every frustration is worth a mention. If your husband routinely leaves the cap off the toothpaste, close the door or let him clean up the mess when the blue goo is stuck to the side of the sink. When your teenager leaves empty candy wrappers in the side door of her car, it might be easier to collect them when you ride with her, rather than get into a dispute over something that you seldom see. Save your energy until something significant needs to be addressed.
Lower your voice. Your message will be more positively received when it's delivered in a calm, rational voice. Bulging eyes and an angry tone will immediately set the stage for a hostile disagreement. If you feel yourself starting to lose your cool, take a break and reconvene when you can negotiate a sensible solution. You lose your power and compromise your character when you throw a serious tantrum.
Take responsibility. A sincere apology is a character builder and can strengthen a bruised relationship. Avoid adding "but" to your expression of remorse as it puts the burden of guilt back on the other person. Sometimes, there is not a good resolution and the best you can hope for is to respectfully agree to disagree and get on with your life. Do your best to strengthen a bond rather than tear it apart.