How Do You Communicate with People Who Have a Different Perspective, Background, or Style Than You and Not Get into Arguments?

ARTICLE | Apr 21, 2017



John Moosey
Borough Manager
Matanuska Susitna Borough, Alaska


Winning the debate rarely leads to greater cooperation and better decisions. Each of us wants the win.

Often a person just wants to be heard without judgment. Listen. An earnest ear is well remembered. Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said you can get whatever you want in life if you will just help enough other people get what they want. Find out if a compromise is doable.

Lower the temperature. Humor has been a staple for me. A well-placed joke or story often reduces the tension created by our differences.

Issues come and go, but good relationships are the foundation of my success. The relationship is more than the point you are both debating.







Shawn Kessel, ICMA-CM
City Administrator
Dickinson, North Dakota


When attempting to communicate with people with an opposing point of view, I think it is important to validate their perspective and try to find common ground. Creating an environment where you not only tolerate but also embrace different points of view is an essential part of good policy creation.

As a former trainer of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," I try to subscribe to Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Truly listening to other people with an ear to understanding their world view before you try to help them understand yours will help you frame the discussion in a manner that is respectful and persuasive.








Barbara McKerrow
Chief Executive
New Plymouth District Council
New Plymouth, New Zealand


When I was a young manager, attending formal council meetings for the first time, the chief executive officer told me that he knew what I thought just by looking at my face. I have since learned to compose myself and not be so easily read, especially under public scrutiny.

Practicing this for years has helped me manage my responses better and so avoid unhelpful argument or offense. It also leads to better outcomes. But being diplomatic is not always easy and venting frustration in positive ways helps. I like going for a run in the local park.

We should not fear argument though. With a foundation of trust, it is good to amplify people's diverse perspectives so that you get to the real nub of an issue and make the best decision possible. That is never going to happen if people are afraid to disagree with one another or won’t say what they think.

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