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How to Disagree

taillogs profile image Ryland G Originally published at cdevn.com ・4 min read

Have Empathy, Don't Have an Ego

If there's one item you follow on this list, it should be this one.

Don't Rely on Logical Fallacies

Familiar with logical fallacies? If you use them in your disagreements don't bother reading any further, I can already tell you that you're wrong (see what I did there, but seriously you are).
Your argument should be driven by data, but practically will rely on well-educated guessing. The great part about relying on data-driven arguments, is that in my experience, they directly improve your confidence. Many people feel insecure about their argument, because they don't even believe it themselves. Starting with the data, and knowing that your position is reasonable and sound, will make you feel much more confident about your position.

Get Over Yourself

Get over yourself. Many incredibly smart people I've known still have a lot of anxiety disagreeing with people. You have to remember, people don't care. It's not personal, in fact its "unpersonal" (that's a word now). Think about it this way, would you notice or care had the roles been reversed?

Retrain Your Brain

Feeling bad about stuff isn't permanent. Initially, disagreeing will be uncomfortable, but your brain can change. If you can build enough positive association, for a substantial period of time, your views will change. For those reasons, you should never tolerate people yelling or being aggressive in disagreements. It's just not good for anyone.

There's No Win or Lose

Disagreements are not a win/loss type situation. It makes no sense, so don't do that. Your goal should never be "to win". A more honorable goal is, "to have the most correct, unbiased world-view possible". And with that goal, "losing a disagreement" is just as good as "winning". Because after that disagreement, you'll never be incorrect about that thing again! Remember, you will always be wrong about a lot of things. Only knowing correct information is unrealistic task, instead optimize for rapid improvement.

Don't Let it Get Personal

If the disagreement is more about "who said what" instead of "what was said", it's probably not a disagreement worth being part of. The moment it gets personal, it stops being a disagreement and starts being a fight. Disagreements should follow the "Jerry Springer rule". If Jerry Springer would put it on his show, it's not a disagreement, it's a fight.

Don't Bottle Things Up

Being honest and direct, is a critical component of having healthy disagreements. In most of the disagreements I'm around, it seems as if one side is always "holding it all back". If you feel like someone is employing a toxic argument tactic, say so. In my experience, the other person may not even realize what they're doing! It's incredibly important not to raise your concerns as accusations. Instead explain how you feel, and how you're affected by the other persons behavior. People respond much better with this approach, trust me.

Active Listening

Active listening is one of the best tactics to improve the quality of a disagreement. Active listening is the process of responding to another person, in a way that proves you were listening to them. I think it's a bit strange that society is so ok with this, it's basic manipulation. That being said, I think it has a positive effect on the conversation and isn't a "negative" thing.

Understand What People Need, Not What They Want

Often, it seems like there's 0 chance of agreement between the two sides of an issue. In these situations, I look for solutions that satisfies the "need" one side has surfaced, without giving them directly what they want. In many cases, people get so attached to a specific solution, they forget the problem they were trying to solve in the first place. Usually, giving them what they need makes them just as happy as if you had given them what they originally asked for.

You Don't Always Get What You Want

Everyone can't get what they want. If I had to name one reason why most "things" (businesses, ideas, etc) fail, it would be inability to make a decision. As a species, humans seem to crave a group consensus. Group consensus is not a practical outcome. You should still value the input of others, and base a decision on that input. It's just not possible to make everyone happy. In many cases, decisions made with the goal of "making everyone happy", end up being really unpopular decisions.

The Golden Rule

Everything I said that applies to you, also applies to others you disagree with. The only way to change your feelings about disagreements is by consistently having positive disagreements. Do not tolerate antics!

If it's still not clear, this might help 😂

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2hwqn9

My blog

Discussion

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nestedsoftware profile image
Nested Software

My preference is to repeat my point more loudly and forcefully as the discussion goes on, with slight variations in wording. Surely then the superiority of my argument will come through! 😉

In addition to the good points you made in your article, one thing I've learned from experience is that, sometimes in a dev shop, people get into passionate and even angry disagreements, but most of the time it's not worth it.

If the wrong decision can seriously hobble a project, or even the company as a whole, then it makes sense to passionately defend one's point of view. It's still not generally a good idea to get angry and defensive, since that will just get the other people's backs up. But if it's important, one should earnestly try one's best to get one's point across.

Most things are not so critical though, and if something turns out to be a mistake, the effect may be minor, or it can simply be fixed later on. In such cases, it's best to make one's point clearly once, and if the team goes in another direction, that's okay. Like you said, don't take it personally, and you don't always get what you want. Most of the time, that's okay.

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taillogs profile image
Ryland G Author

My preference is to repeat my point more loudly and forcefully as the discussion goes on, with slight variations in wording. Surely then the superiority of my argument will come through! 😉

Sounds like you could script that :)

In addition to the good points you made in your article, one thing I've learned from experience is that, sometimes in a dev shop, people get into passionate and even angry disagreements, but most of the time it's not worth it.

Passionate is ok, angry not so much. I usually have less issue with people disagreeing passionately and more of an issue with what they feel passionate about. You shouldn't feel passionate about languages and tools because they are just tools.

If the wrong decision can seriously hobble a project, or even the company as a whole, then it makes sense to passionately defend one's point of view. It's still not generally a good idea to get angry and defensive, since that will just get the other people's backs up. But if it's important, one should earnestly try one's best to get one's point across.

Being persistent is definitely ok. Sometimes the outcome of a disagreement is that there won't be an agreement. There are definitely ways to resolve that situation but usually bringing in a third person is enough.

Most things are not so critical though, and if something turns out to be a mistake, the effect may be minor, or it can simply be fixed later on. In such cases, it's best to make one's point clearly once, and if the team goes in another direction, that's okay. Like you said, don't take it personally, and you don't always get what you want. Most of the time, that's okay.

I think it really depends. In general, if you're not in an environment where people take your input seriously, the environment could be improved. This is different than "not getting what you want", you shouldn't always get you what you want, but you should always have a chance to voice what you want.

As usual, great comment. Really appreciate the perspective.

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arxpoetica profile image
Robert Hall

There are some good points in this article, but data-driven discussion drives me bonkers. Too many engineers hold to some doctrine based on "science" or "data" or whatever, and don't really show compassion toward intuition or gut, etc. Feelings and thoughts are just as vital to human understanding as anything cold or wanton floating out in the ecosystem of observationally proven things. (Human observation is actually intrinsically tied to gut...)

I'm much more interested in generous discussion. I do agree with a lot of your other points, however, which somewhat fall in line with compassionate disagreement.

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taillogs profile image
Ryland G Author

I did say

Your argument should be driven by data, but practically will rely on well-educated guessing

Which I believe is what you're saying too. Data is important. Data can't be mislead, or confused, or shortsighted, it just is. Obviously you won't always have the data you need, but you should strive to always have the data you need.

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arxpoetica profile image
Robert Hall

No, I'm not talking about guess work in data. I'm talking about imperative trust of human intuition, that is, completely detached from reason or logic or data.

People who are obsessed with a data-driven understanding of the world sometimes aren't willing to engage with other forces at play that go beyond consciousness.

If you really wanted to get in the weeds, you could pit this as cold hard secularism against spirituality, but I prefer a scientific view of a psychological unconscious that we don't yet truly understand.

This becomes a breakdown of communication because people sometimes won't listen on the merits of intuition. It often becomes either / or, instead of looking at things from multiple points of view. I like data as much as the next person, but there are other important means of approaching conversation.

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andrewbrown profile image
Andrew Brown 🇨🇦

I've been called a douchebag twice on DEV.to because people didn't agree with me.
One person went as far as we blocking me on LinkedIn because they didn't agree with me.
I'm shrugging because the reactions are so extreme but take no offence.

  • Don't take disagreements personally
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt
  • Tonality does not exist in writing, maybe you are projecting assumptions on to something which does not exist.

I write in a draconian style with the intent to have things well documented if someone were to go back and read something. I think when people speak to me in person they are surprised how different my spoken persona is compared to by written persona.

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taillogs profile image
Ryland G Author

I'm shrugging because the reactions are so extreme but take no offence.

It's the only way to do it. There will always be people who don't want to discuss things rationally and calmly. That's not a practical problem to solve, just avoid them altogether.

I write in a draconian style with the intent to have things well documented if someone were to go back and read something. I think when people speak to me in person they are surprised how different my spoken persona is compared to by written persona.

The same is true for me. I definitely am way different in person.

Thanks for reading and leaving your thoughts! Don't get discouraged

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vrin_dizzle profile image
Vrinda Singh

Isn’t it a little entitled of you to assume that other people are in the wrong, especially when your words have offended and upset multiple people at this point? Perhaps this is a time for self reflection. Having people be surprised that you’re nice in person isn’t exactly something to be proud of - it probably just means you need to reflect on the effectiveness of your “draconian” writing..

Read a few of your comments and yeah, you kind of do come off as a douchebag. All your comments seem to reek of privilege too...but what would I know, I just seem like one of the many crazy people who get triggered by your comments on the daily, right? :)

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andrewbrown profile image
Andrew Brown 🇨🇦

I appreciate you came on the platform to defend Vaibhav Namburi. You are a true and friend.

I comment not because I want to, but because I have.

I have been critical of Vaibhav recent articles where I am writing long-form comments which have upset them because I am presenting an opposing view. I can understand how this makes them feel, though I have to provide commentary not because I want to but because I feel morally obligated since hundreds of people who are trying to build a better life around the world are struggling to find work in the web-dev industry and I need to share my proven knowledge with actionable steps and examples to help improve there lives.

For Vaibhav

  • I had offered leads for contacts here in Toronto to help grow their business.
  • I have offered to editorialize their articles to be factually correct, and in turn will lead them to better engagement here in DEV.to
  • I have in private apologized multiple times before writing my comment because I knew my comments may hurt their feelings no matter how I wrote it and explained why I must comment

If coming off as a douchebag is what I have to endure to get the right information to people that need it. I invite each and every single comment to call me a douchebag.

and again sorry my comments hurt Vaibhav feelings.

Welcome to DEV.to

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vrin_dizzle profile image
Vrinda Singh

It’s a little arrogant of you to assume that your way is the only right way to be successful. Don’t use your personal experience to invalidate other people’s experiences. If you’re going to present an opposing view, it might be better to precede your comments with a “This is how it’s worked for me.”

How utterly close minded to assume that everyone’s path and means to success is the same. People write from their experience, so by all means, offer your opinion but drop the hubris. You’re not any more right than someone else - you just have different experiences. It’s clear that you have trouble comprehending that you might not always be 100% correct in every situation, but perhaps you should let people share the content that they feel will help people - you may not think it’s helpful, but it could make a difference to someone else’s life.

Or just like...write your own articles dude, stop being a douchebag on other people’s content.

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vrin_dizzle profile image
Vrinda Singh

Also what’s “factually correct” exactly? There’s no absolute truth when it comes to business. You might have found your success one way, but someone else might have found it differently. Stop acting like you wrote the Bible on success - different things work for different people.

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andrewbrown profile image
Andrew Brown 🇨🇦

I agree, there are different ways of achieving goals.

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vrin_dizzle profile image
Vrinda Singh

Congrats on the revelation 🙌🏻

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nanythery profile image
Nadine M. Thêry

Really nice article. In my first degree in Political Sciences we were trained for debate. So disagreeing and finding reasons against something you may actually agreed with was a great exercise. It made me critic even with my own ideas. But also with all ideas.
I must recognise that arguing is probably my weakest point. I can easily debate, but I am not able to get over it when somebody is rude, yelling or making it personal. So I tend to end the situation by saying that I won't talk in those terms. The weakness is that I tend to get stuck in the argument, mentally. Is something I need to improve.

So, yes, get over myself and do not making it personal. Hehe.

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taillogs profile image
Ryland G Author

It sounds like those were really great exercises that really broadened your comfort zone. You don't need to attend university to get that environment. There are tons of meetups where you can develop these skills without paying $5k a quarter (or more in my case).

I can easily debate, but I am not able to get over it when somebody is rude, yelling or making it personal. So I tend to end the situation by saying that I won't talk in those terms. The weakness is that I tend to get stuck in the argument, mentally. Is something I need to improve.

You shouldn't get over it. Being rude is more acceptable but never tolerate yelling or personal attacks. Personal attacks are a fallacy in themselves.

Glad you enjoyed it, appreciate the comment.

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elliot profile image
Elliot

Great article, and a great collection of knowledge about arguments and disagreeing. Here's some of my thoughts on arguments:

Arguments are a really great way to help the people around you to get better, and to help yourself get better. At the end of the argument, at least one person will come out having learned something.

Sometimes half the argument is getting to a place where you can understand what the other person is arguing for or about. But then you've both just learned how to empathize and understand each other, whether you disagree or not. What an awesome thing to learn!

I like what you said about confidence in arguments. I think a great way to understand something is to attempt to argue it (if even to yourself). If you realize you aren't confident in your argument, then figure out why you aren't and correct or alter your argument to allow yourself to be confident in it. Once you are confident, then you argue it to other people. After wrestling with the argument's problems yourself, you'll be able to empathize with people who can't quite get down or understand with your argument. Then you can work through their problems with the idea with them. Empathy is a fantastic tool for communication and convincing people.

P.S. Your article is a bit meta... You argue that arguing is important, and use a lot of examples and knowledge (data) to support that argument; and that makes it a good argument. Nice

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taillogs profile image
Ryland G Author

Great article, and a great collection of knowledge about arguments and disagreeing.

Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

Arguments are a really great way to help the people around you to get better, and to help yourself get better. At the end of the argument, at least one person will come out having learned something.

As long as it's a productive argument, fully agree.

Sometimes half the argument is getting to a place where you can understand what the other person is arguing for or about. But then you've both just learned how to empathize and understand each other, whether you disagree or not. What an awesome thing to learn!

More often than not, people aren't even disagreeing, just miscommunicating. Especially when working with people you're not incredibly familiar with, this is super key.

I like what you said about confidence in arguments...

The one danger is over confidence. The confidence should be genuine (doesn't mean you'll be right). This also doesn't mean you should be a perfectionist and only argue positions you completely can defend. The important part is to be aware of what you know before going in, that's confidence.

P.S. Your article is a bit meta... You argue that arguing is important, and use a lot of examples and knowledge (data) to support that argument; and that makes it a good argument. Nice

That's a very funny insight that I truly hadn't considered. Made me chuckle.

Thanks for reading the post and taking the time to give such great feedback!

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codingmindfully profile image
Daragh Byrne

More of this sort of thing please!

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taillogs profile image
Ryland G Author

Always nice to hear. I will definitely keep doing more. Anything more specific? I can write about anything.

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techhead404 profile image
Dillon Greek

Degree vs no degree would be I good one. That has become a big problem since online learning and bootcamps. I deal with it everyday how people with a bachelor degree get or think they should get more promotions and job offers, even though the non degree person as a amazing portfolio and has proven his or her skills.

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taillogs profile image
Ryland G Author

People will laugh really hard when they hear my situation.

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mx profile image
Maxime Moreau

Hi, great article, enjoyed it a lot.

I'm a young engineer and I've been experiencing a lot of trouble due to the ego, not mine, people ego...

My last "manager" had a horrible ego. It was a nightmare, I couldn't say anything without a fight...

If the disagreement is more about "who said what" instead of "what was said", it's probably not a disagreement worth being part of. The moment it gets personal, it stops being a disagreement and starts being a fight.

So yeah, I quit :)

Now I'm having some trouble with my workmate because they also have a big ego. "You're younger, I have the right solution", screw it, it's not true...

A big advice for people like this, please listen and let young people talk. They're a new fresh air in your team :)

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taillogs profile image
Ryland G Author

I'm a young engineer and I've been experiencing a lot of trouble due to the ego, not mine, people ego...
My last "manager" had a horrible ego. It was a nightmare, I couldn't say anything without a fight...

I'm 24 so definitely understand that. I'm glad you quit when the situation wasn't positive for you. That's a hard choice and many struggle to make it. Not quitting, only keeps you unhappy and enables the other person to keep behaving badly.

Now I'm having some trouble with my workmate because they also have a big ego. "You're younger, I have the right solution", screw it, it's not true...
A big advice for people like this, please listen and let young people talk. They're a new fresh air in your team :)

I don't think you want this. Instead it should be "please listen and let everyone talk (no matter who they are)".

Thanks for the great feedback, glad you liked it.

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mx profile image
Maxime Moreau

Yes for sure, in this situation it's the only possibility, after a good talk of course. It's hard to quit, but it's a very good move, I've a much much better life now :)

please listen and let everyone talk (no matter who they are)
Yeah, that was my thought.

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fishj123 profile image
Jack Fisher

Great article Ryan. I've always thought that people would benefit from putting themselves in the other person's shoes more often. I believe it's really important to try your hardest to understand why the person you are debating with has the view point that they do.

It's also import to recognise your own bias. Everyone thinks that their view points are correct, it's human nature to feel this way. Recognising that you might not be correct even if you strongly feel like you are is a strong skill to have.

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taillogs profile image
Ryland G Author

It's also import to recognise your own bias. Everyone thinks that their view points are correct, it's human nature to feel this way. Recognising that you might not be correct even if you strongly feel like you are is a strong skill to have

Probably the hardest, yet most important skill to have. It's the only practical way to keep improving yourself.

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maheshkay profile image
Mahesh K

Good article. Learned something new from it and also through comments. :)

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taillogs profile image
Ryland G Author

And most people think the comments are toxic! Thanks for reading

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remzi profile image
Remzi Cavdar

Thank you for this. It's a nice starting point for every discussion.

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taillogs profile image
Ryland G Author

Thanks for reading!

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techhead404 profile image
Dillon Greek

If people would just shut their mouths and open their ears. Then there would not be a problem.

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taillogs profile image
Ryland G Author

I don't agree. As with all things, it should be a balance.

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techhead404 profile image
Dillon Greek

Yes but people have a big problem listening to others. That's where shut your mouth and open yours ears comes into play. You have to listen and can't do that if your talking.

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jamesmkenny profile image
James Kenny

This is a really great article. Love reading these sort of posts these skills are way more valuable to us as people never mind as developers or what ever we call ourselves these days.

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taillogs profile image
Ryland G Author

"Computer translators" is the new word for developer (I just invented it). Glad to hear you enjoyed it!