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The five phrases we should stop using during disagreements.

“Out of difference can come the reinforcement of two important values. One is tolerance and the other is awareness that people who disagree over the things they hold dear really can live together in love and respect.” Fred Rogers

Recently I had the unenviable draw of being seated next to a couple fighting on a flight.

As I soon learned – and everyone within 11 rows overheard – the day had gone poorly. A laundry list of accused grievances included that the alarm wasn’t set right by her, Uber wasn’t scheduled correctly by him, the blue bag was supposed to be brought also, the dog should have been dropped off the evening before, and they should have paid for TSA pre-check to avoid the lines (Well, that last one is most certainly true!)

Here’s the thing: This couple made the flight! They were retired, healthy and heading to Florida together yet could not let of a challenging morning.

As the squabble died down, I thought of all the stupid fights I’ve had in my life. And I regretted that most of those fights, candidly, were with the people I love most.

My friends, how often arguments are simply ridiculous when we step away from the emotion for a moment. How often feelings are hurt, nights are ruined, trips are derailed and relationships are ended because of the inability to disagree well.

Arguments and disagreements are part of all relationships. But the negativity so often echoed during them doesn’t have to be. Let me share five comments we’d all be far better never muttering.

  1. “Well, remember when you …” The solution to a current disagreement likely won’t be found in bringing up a previous one. Stay present, stay in the moment, and quit bringing up the past.
  2. “You always …” This is another unhealthy way of drudging up the past. It draws past experiences into a heated moment and is accusatory, inaccurate and ultimately unhelpful.
  3. “You are just like your …” Have you ever uttered these words? Ever heard them from someone with whom you were in a disagreement? Did they work? Heal the problem? Generate a solution? Trigger an accepting head nod and spark an apology? Never! The fight isn’t with her dad or his mom.
  4. “One more thing …” OK, not sure what your first point was. Or the next couple points you made. But there is no way anything that follows these words will be met with someone responding that they finally understand where you’re coming from. Discuss it later when you’re both in a far better mindset.
  5. “I’m not finished yet!” Yelling these words ensures you actually are finished. And if you keep yelling and remain angry, you’ll ensure not only are you finished, but the relationship is, too.

My friends, we can disagree with one another without being disagreeable. We can make our points without pointing fingers. We can discuss divisive, difficult topics without name-calling and blame-shifting.

Fred Rogers reminded us that our difference reinforces two important values. The first value is the transformational revelation of grace and tolerance. Far from being evidence of weakness, they are hallmarks of true strength.

And the second is awareness that people who disagree over the things they hold dear really can live together in love and respect.

A divided nation might benefit from this reminder today.

But the citizens must first recognize it begins not in DC, but in their personal relationships.

Oh, and one more thing…

This is your day. Live Inspired.

5 replies on “Making Things Worse”

Way to go John – reminding us that the insults that we are trying to score a KO punch to the opponent are really just digging the hole to China deeper – one more thing thanks for reminding us to live an inspired Day/Life

Hi John! I love this. Here’s my question: how does this work when the things someone believes are factually untrue and damaging? The only thing I’ve come up with so far is cutting off contact.

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Live Inspired Together is a community of friends changing the world together, starting with their own. In a world that often focuses on negativity, John O’Leary - Live Inspired shares the other side of the story through his member-supported channels (essays, Live Inspired Podcast, video, webcasts, social platforms) to connect our community and share inspiration and actions to live it. Support now.