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From time to time we might find ourselves in conversation with people we love and care for, but with whom we might not always agree. When we do find ourselves in disagreement with someone, it’s easy, and sometimes tempting, to shut down, and dismiss the other person’s point of view outright. But in the spirit of togetherness, we can actually activate our powers of understanding and empathy to foster deeper more meaningful relationships with the people around us.

Recognizing how others are similar to us—and wishing them happiness—is a good way to build better connections and communication. One way to accomplish this is through active listening.

You can be an active and interested listener by emoting appropriately in response to what your speaker is saying, and pausing and paraphrasing your speaker’s story every so often. Being an active and open listener will allow you to meet each interaction with presence of mind, and help you react accordingly.

If things happen to take a turn, and you find an argument brewing, you can remind yourself of what you and your conversation partner have in common, rather than where you differ. A great phrase to remember is, “just like me.”

For instance, if you find yourself in an uncomfortable argument with someone, you can tell yourself:

  • This person in front of me has valid feelings, emotions and thoughts, just like me.
  • This person in front of me has had ups, downs, victories and setbacks in life, just like me.
  • This person in front of me wishes to be happy, loved, heard and accepted, just like me.

By recognizing similarities, rather than differences, you’ll be better able to approach and defuse conflict through greater empathy. You might even be surprised at how much easier conversations are when you approach them from a place of understanding and loving-kindness.