Finding common ground can ease tension with ‘that person’

Whether you disagree about politics or office policy, finding a way to work together is crucial

Most of us have tension with someone. We can get irritated just hearing that person’s name. Maybe it’s an old friend who has opposing political views. Or maybe it’s a neighbor who denies needed changes in your homeowners association.

We live in a world where arguments can become a headline. We wonder if there are many sane people left.

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“I got into a verbal fight at my high school reunion,” “Troy” told us. Some of the attendees attacked my choice for a local political candidate. In looking back, I overreacted. I should have ignored the comments and lightened the mood.”

To restore some harmony in your world, keep these points in mind. Each of them helps to ease tension:

Stop emphasizing your differences. Instead, find points you agree on. Any fool can argue and upset other people. It takes a mature person to hold an intelligent discussion.

Keep in mind that others don’t think like you do. For example, they may view the world as a more hostile place than you view it. These types of people might have trouble trusting those who are too mild-mannered. They feel safer around aggressive, opinionated leaders.

Don’t abandon your sense of humor. Laughter can recharge your batteries when you’re feeling drained or depressed. Try to lighten the mood for yourself and others, whenever possible.

Realize that your own views can quickly change. Most of us can name situations where our opinions changed instantly once we had more facts.

ExploreThe importance of being aware of how you make others feel

While it’s critical to honor your own morals, don’t believe that a short lecture will change anyone. Instead, try to find common beliefs. State points you know the other person will support, such as having a better economic future.

“My son’s in-laws are always voicing extreme political views,” “Raven” said. “I finally figured out that we are co-grandparents. The children are what we have in common. Nothing outside of the children’s well-being is going to bother me. I just let them talk, and I try not to get worked up.”

A divorce attorney we’ll call Anderson said: “Almost every couple getting a divorce could have avoided it. All of them should have found more things to agree on than disagree on. It’s a delicate balancing act. A second marriage is usually just as difficult as the first. So I wish more people would try to get it right the first time.”

Tension often eases between two people when they find common ground. Be vigilant to understand what others like and don’t like. Try to quickly gasp what makes someone happy.

“It’s perfectly OK to manipulate a situation,” “Ronald,” a family counselor, said. “If you know someone is going to criticize your cooking, don’t invest four hours in the meal. Order from a restaurant, for example, and serve that. Do what you need to do, so your own mental health is protected.”

Ronald said it wastes so much energy to avoid our critics: “Stop trying to win them over. Instead, ask them about their own activities and goals. Steer the conversation to them and away from yourself.”

ExploreLooking ahead is an important leadership skill

To take charge of your life, you really have to take charge of your conversations. Learn to “interview” others instead of allowing them to dig into your privacy.

“I start these conversations off with a compliment,” Ronald said. “This disarms a would-be critic. Brag on their hair, their car or their children. Very few people are going to pick a fight with you, if you’re paying a sincere compliment. Compliments cause tension to melt.”

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Judi Light Hopson is the executive director of the stress management website USA Wellness Café at Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.