Conflict Resolution Training:

To Deal With Highly Opinionated People, Give Up Being Highly Opinionated


One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is, “How can I deal with highly opinionated people?” and I always answer in the same way: To be effective with these people, give up being one of them. After all, everyone is “highly opinionated” including, of course, me (I wouldn’t be writing this if I weren’t). Some don’t express their opinions openly, but their opinions are in their minds just waiting to be expressed to a friend (“You can’t believe what John said to me. He’s so opinionated.”).

Now when presented with my answer for dealing with highly opinionated people, your tendency may be to argue which is, of course, an example of just how opinionated you are.

That’s why the best way to deal with opinionated people is to listen to what they are saying and really “get” them. Listen for what they are actually saying without all your judgments, beliefs and opinions (which, by the way, are more examples of how “highly opinionated” you actually are). Never give your opinion without first paraphrasing, to the other person’s satisfaction, what he or she has just said to you.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Aggression encourages aggression. Listening encourages listening. Go into the interaction with these highly opinionated people not with the intent to get them to agree with you but with the intent that you are going to agree with them. “Agree” in this case means understand where they are coming from and with the possibility that you will not only change your view but that you will change your behavior.

What have you got to lose? That which you resist persists. Your current way of dealing with these people hasn’t made any difference. Why not try something new?

After all, from the perspective of the other person, you’re the one who is “highly opinionated.”

Permission to reproduce is granted as long as the following citation is included:

Reprinted by permission of the author, Larry Barkan: