Understanding and Navigating Disagreements

Relationship challenges are not roadblocks; they are detours guiding us toward deeper understanding and growth.

We’ve come a long way in this course, learning valuable insights and developing practical skills for improving connections. By honing communication skills, empathy, active listening, and self-awareness, we are equipped with the tools necessary for a crucial aspect of relationship building – working through disagreements.

It’s important to recognize that having differences of opinion doesn’t mean something is wrong. In fact, disagreements can open doors to expressing our thoughts, emotions, and needs, which can further strengthen the bond with our partner.

On the other hand, unresolved conflicts can build resentment, erode trust, and create distance between partners.

Healthy relationships are built upon the willingness to engage in constructive dialogue, embrace differences, and find resolutions that honour both partners’ needs. 

Understanding Disagreements 

Disagreements are natural expressions of differing perspectives, opinions, or needs between you and your partner. They can arise as we each bring our unique experiences, values, and communication styles into the mix. 

Disagreements don’t have to be hostile or competitive, and it’s important to distinguish disagreements (healthy and normal) from arguments or fights (unhealthy and corrosive for relationships). 

Arguing or Fighting

While they may involve intense emotions, disagreements can be addressed with respect, empathy, and a willingness to find common ground.

Arguments tend to be emotionally charged, fueled by anger or frustration, and often involve personal attacks or aggression.

If a relationship involves any physical violence, intimidation, or threats of harm, it is unlikely to be healthy and immediate action may be necessary to prevent further harm.

Navigating Disagreements in Relationships

The Nonviolent Communication (NVC) framework is an approach to navigating disagreements that emphasizes empathy, active listening, and constructive dialogue to resolve conflicts and foster connection. It provides a structure for expressing oneself honestly and compassionately, while promoting understanding and meeting the needs of both individuals involved. 

There are four steps in the NVC framework. As you read through them, try to reflect on how you usually handle disagreements with your partner, as well as how you can use the framework for handling future issues.

Step One: Observations

The first step in NVC is to make observations without evaluation or judgment. This involves objectively describing the specific behaviour or situation that is triggering the disagreement. It’s important to stick to the facts and avoid interpreting or adding personal opinions. For example:

  • It would be better to say “I noticed you were on your phone and seemed distracted while I was trying to talk about our plans for the weekend” instead of “You’re always on your phone when I’m trying to talk to you”.

Step Two: Feelings

The next step is to identify and express the feelings that arise from the observation. NVC encourages people to connect with their emotions and express them honestly. It’s helpful to use “I” statements here. For example:

  • Saying “I feel ignored and not fully respected when you’re on your phone while we are talking. I like to know that you’re really listening to the ideas I bring up” instead of “You’re making me feel ignored and disrespected when you’re on your phone”

Step Three: Needs

After acknowledging the feelings, it’s essential to identify the underlying needs that are connected to those emotions. Needs reflect our fundamental values and desires. By identifying and articulating our needs, we can better understand ourselves and communicate them to our partner. For example:

  • Saying “I need to feel that you actually care about what I have to say when we’re talking” instead of “Hey, pay attention when I’m talking to you.”

Step Four: Requests

Once the needs are identified, the next step is to make clear and specific requests. These requests should be positive, actionable, and attainable. NVC emphasizes making requests rather than demands, allowing both partners to contribute to finding mutually satisfying solutions. For example:

  • “Would you be willing to put your phone away for a couple minutes so we can talk?” instead of “OK, if you don’t even want to talk about it, I guess we’re not doing anything this weekend.”

Working through disagreements using the NVC method takes effort. However, the more we practice, the more seamless it will become. 

The next page in this section provides more tips on how to handle disagreements and what we can do after them. 


Men's Health Week takes place annually in mid-June, during the week preceding Father’s Day. The week is not just a campaign, but a call to action for men to take better care of their health and for communities to support men in this endeavour.

Men's Health Week 2024