How to Take the “Dis” out of Disagreement

How to Take the “Dis” out of Disagreement

It’s hard to be a teenager. 

It’s hard to be the parent of a teenager.

Throughout my years as a School Counselor, many things have changed. But the one thing that has remained the same is the struggle between parent and child to understand one another.

The parent wants respect. 

The student wants respect

Nobody is getting respect.

What is happening is that you are spinning in circles trying to get the other person to understand your viewpoint. If at any time one person feels disrespected, the conversation shuts down and turns into defensiveness.

Now you are in a power play. And that never ends well.

I am going to throw something out there that I learned from David Burns, one of the founders of Cognitive Behavioral Theory. It is a 5 step process of effective communication, but I am going to focus on the first step.


What does it mean to disarm someone? 

Let’s think of it in literal terms. 

Say you invite some guests to go swimming at an indoor pool in the middle of winter. They show up dressed in snow boots, a winter coat, hat and gloves.

Jumping into the water with all of this attire on will be a messy situation. One could still technically go swimming, but they would feel the heavy weight of their clothing as it soaks up the water. Plus, they would not be able to swim as efficiently, and any fun they were going to have would not be ruined by wet clothes.

But if said person takes off their outerwear and fashions a swim suit, they will probably end up having an ideal situation. 

The moral of the story is. you have to take off your coat to go swimming.

And you have to swallow your ego so that you can have a beneficial conversation.

Change What it Means to Disagree

It is hard to comprehend what is meant by disarm, especially if we have a skewed view of what it means to have a disagreement.

Most of us think of a disagreement as a conflict. 

That’s our first mistake.

A disagreement is simply different points of view. Thinking of it as a viewpoint instead of a conflict changes its entire meaning.

A conflict is something that has to be won

A differing viewpoint is something that has to be understood.

So Now What?

 So how do you actually disarm someone that you know is absolutely wrong or disrespectful? Well, a few ways:

Swallow Your Ego

This one is tough, especially if you are reading it from the parent perspective. But bringing our “shoulds” into a disagreement necessarily prevents us from bringing our “hopes” into the disagreement.

You should not use that tone with me because I am your mother.


I hope that we can get to a place where we can speak nicely to each other.

Find Something Valid in the Other’s Viewpoint

I know. You’re thinking, but there is nothing valid about the way that I am being spoken to.

Maybe this is true. Maybe your child, or your parent (depending on what role you play) is using a completely demeaning tone with you and is cutting you off mid-sentence because they do not want to hear your side.

This is where swallowing your ego comes in. Remember, your goal is to get to a place of resolve, not to continue a cycle of fighting.

This is where I ask you to do something completely unnatural, and it may make you cringe a little. 

But I urge you to try it anyway.

I want you to think about why the other person may be giving you a tone of disrespect. I don’t want you to make anything up, but if you don’t acknowledge what the other is feeling, you are only in a power struggle, which is the opposite of a restorative practice.

So, instead of saying:

You can’t talk to me like that! If you use that tone one more time, I am taking away all of your electronics.

It feels good in the moment to say this. After all, you deserve to be respected. Nobody is arguing that.

But if we focus on what we perceive we deserve, we have lost. 

So what’s your end game?

Is it to gain power, or is it to gain understanding?

People are more likely to respond when they feel they have been understood. So next time, try this:

I can imagine that it must get tiring feeling like I am yelling at you all the time. I know that you have also had a long day, and I need to recognize that maybe we both need some downtime before engaging in conversation.

I don’t know about you, but if someone said the above statement to me, I would return in kind. Before I would know it, the conversation would be moving in a more positive direction and favorable outcome.

So that’s disarming. The concept is simple, the practice is difficult.

You can use this technique in any situation; with your friends, co-workers, spouse, children, parents, in-laws, etc. Disarming works with everyone.

If you are willing to lose a little pride.


Written by Monica Fugedi, LPC, NCC, CCATP Wellness/Crisis Counselor Groves High School

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