Here are 9 concise tools for handling disagreements

Two goats butting heads

As a mediation and negotiation specialist that blogs weekly on issues related to conflict resolution and collaboration I want share with you what I see as a very well written concise commentary by Abraham Dameh on how to handle disagreements. His nine points of Listening actively, Empathy, Be Calm, Build Bridges, Collaborate, Neutral Language, Mediation, and Reflection on Lessons learned absolutely resonates with me. I took his 9 points and offer some additional thoughts that I think could help you too.


1. Listen actively


In my book, The Collaboration Effect, I identify listening actively as the most important chapter in the book. I appreciate that this is Dameh’s first of nine points. I could not agree more.

I use an acronym for listening actively. The acronym is PASSED. It stands for


Ask open ended questions


Suspend judgment


Do not offer advice


2. Empathy


This ties into Dameh’s second point of empathizing with the other party by putting yourself into someone else’s shoes. Slow down. Take a deep breath. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. Be authentic and demonstrate that you care.


3. Stay calm and be respectful


Leaders lead with compassion. That is, they remain calm, confident, and competent related to the subject matter. Remaining calm and focused is central to staying focused on the subject matter. I have found whether mediating with boards of directors on billion-dollar issues, or  mediating between street gangs as a volunteer mediator that everyone wants to be respected. When the parties cannot be in the same room with one another as a mediator I listen and rephrase what I have heard to often take very abusive language and summarize key points in neutral terms agreed to by the party that I am working with at that time to share with the other party. When I present the commentary to the other party they are amazed at how calm and respectful this sounds. As a result, the other party feels respected as well.


4. Find common ground


Behind every position is at least one interest. Interests hold the seeds to a solution. Discovering what parties have in common and digging deeper into interests goes a long way towards potentially finding a solution that works for all.


5. Collaboration problem-solving


In the book, The Collaboration Effect, the emphasis is on building connecting relationships, listening actively, and educating judiciously in order to build bridges and negotiate closure. There is a 10 step process offered in associated with interest based solutions. In brief these are

  1. Define the problem
  2. Listen to understand the emotion and facts behind the issues
  3. Identify and clarify interests
  4. Generate options
  5. Determine the impacts of options economically, environmentally, and socially
  6. Evaluate the impacts of the different options economically, environmentally, and socially
  7. Potentially select a solution or a hybrid solution
  8. Consider implementing the solution or return to an earlier step
  9. Consider testing the solution
  10. Consider the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA)

Along the way it is suggested that you consider brainstorming,  and as indicated above evaluating options, deciding on an option, and implementing the solution are the keys to collaborative problem solving.


6. Communication


Having open and clear communication is key to working towards a resolution. Focusing on being open, developing trust, and creating an atmosphere where the other party feels safe to express their concerns goes a long way towards working towards a solution. As indicated above being able to work together with neutral language, listening actively, and applying the PASSED acronym above goes a long way towards having effective communication.


7. Take a break: when emotions run high


Often in tense situations emotions run high. At times taking a break for a few minutes can be a particularly good thing. Sometimes a longer break is needed. People need to compose themselves and be able to come back to address the issues. Being angry distorts the thinking process. Helping the parties to be able to come back and interact with each other professionally allows for clearer thinking.


8. When the process breaks down bring on board a mediator


This is what I do. Having completed over 2,500 mediations, negotiations, and facilitations in my career I work to address the seven steps presented above with typically two to four mediations monthly. I know my niche related to IRS and other issues associated with valuation and other finance related topics. I also know many mediators in Minnesota and nationally. I am serving as a  member of the board of the Minnesota State Bar Association Alternative Dispute Resolution Section and nationally I have served on the business valuation committee of the American Society of Appraiser and boards of the National Association of Certified Valuers and Analysts. A trained, experienced, mediator is impartial and plays a crucial role to facilitate communication, help the parties manage emotions, and helps the parties develop a solution that they developed themselves. Given my newsletter with over 23,000 email addresses I have developed a national network that if I cannot help you, I likely know someone who can.


9. Learn from the process


A post brief on the process is often helpful. Asking questions such as what did you learn, how do you feel about the process and the way the process concluded, and are there things you might do differently in the future? Many times, the parties have shared with me that they learned a lot about the process and themselves too. They see ways in which they can approach future concerns better having worked with me as their mediator.




Dameh wrote a very well written concise commentary on how to handle disagreements. His commentary is the inspiration for this blog. Considering these 9 points I know that they work and can help you with disagreements. Keep in mind that often an approach of not addressing conflict only makes the situation worse. Embracing these strategies and using this commentary as a guide can help you be better prepared and work with others to facilitate constructive solutions and potentially help transform relationships.

If you’re looking for some assistance or want to learn more related to collaboration or conflict resolution, or enhancing your Servant Manager skills, check out these links.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]