Approaching Disagreements Mindfully

How do we effectively work with co-workers, bosses, subordinates, partners, spouses, friends, who disagree with us?

If your purpose is to convince someone that you’re right and they are wrong, you’ll simply make the other person more closed. But why would we enter a discussion or an argument, if it’s not to convince the other, or win?

The key to being able to work well with others is to be able to separate how we feel from what we want to accomplish. In our mindfulness meditation practice, we see how our thoughts come and go, our feelings go up and down, and we develop some insight into how our minds work. We can apply this insight to how we interact with others. In some ways mindfulness meditation is a training not taking our own emotions so seriously.

The particular emotion that comes up in disagreements is that fear of not being right, of losing.  Paradoxically, you can only truly convince someone else of the correctness of your idea if you allow the space for disagreement, and if you’re truly willing to be wrong if a better idea comes up.  This doesn’t mean you don’t think feel that you are right; it means you don’t have your ego so invested in it. 

We can’t get to the truth of a situation if our agenda is about us winning – that’s not the truth, is it.  If we want our company to proceed properly, our friendship or partnership or marriage to function well, we need to be able to doubt ourselves and engage in true dialogue. What we practice is willingness to connect with others, meet them with respect and curiosity, rather than defensiveness and aggression.  Mindfulness meditation is the practice of being able to decide how to proceed in spite of, rather than because of, our emotions.