Updated: Oct 22, 2020
Can you stand by your partner, friend, or family member and support them when you clearly can see the detriment in the situation? Is it possible to stand by someone but also fully-heartedly disagree with their choice?
Well, have you have ever stood by a friend while they dated someone clearly wrong for them?
Have you ever stood by a family member as they take on a crazy sport that almost gives you a heart attack every time you watch, but you'll still be in the stands cheering them on? Even with your eyes mostly covered??
Then yes, you have been able to separate agreement and support.
For me personally, my mom has done this MANY times in situations where I was dating men who were maaaaaybe not the best fit for me...
Did she nag me constantly and tell me how bad they were? Nope.
Did she talk down to them or make me feel any less of a person for having them in my life? No way.
Did I wish she did after the fact? Most definitely.
But on the other hand would I have appreciated/accepted the unsolicited advice during the time? Another solid nope.
Clearly she was able to support me but did not necessarily agree with my choice and you bet she was always there with a shoulder to cry on! With her usual statement "I just knew he wasn't the one.." uttered kindly being her only "I told you so"
Do YOU have trouble separating the two?
Have you ever felt personally attacked when someone didn't exclaim "How high should I jump?" when you told them how fun jumping off a bridge into shallow water was?
For the longest time that was me...If someone didn't agree with me or I didn't agree with them it was OFF WITH THEIR HEADS! My way or the highway kind of thing.. I have however learned that yes, you can support someone but still not agree with the action.
Here are some tips:
TIP #1 Ask if they are looking for advise or an ear to vent
This is something I am still getting used to...Sometimes your loved one just wants a safe space to talk and/or vent. No judgements. If someone is choosing you as that person HELL YEAH, you should feel good that you have created that space in the first place. However you want to make sure you are meeting their needs and not subconsciously your own. You care, so you want to offer the right kind of support at the right time.
TIP #2 If you are an ear, Keep an open mind & Be a good listener
Remember this is a judgement free zone! Keeping an open mind means allowing the person to express themselves however they feel comfortable as long as it's respectful. Listen to learn, not to respond and if a confirmation is required remember who's "side" you're on. You are in this moment in a support role not an advisory role.
TIP #3 If advise is asked, tread with care and assess the situation
Whether or not you agree or disagree with the person you are communicating with they are coming to you for support so it is a good idea to ask "May I give my opinion on the subject?" You can then start your statement with "In my opinion, I do (or do not) agree with your actions but I will support whatever you choose because I care about you"
If they ask for a reason it's best to gauge the situation. If it's still a safe space start again with "In my opinion...." this confirms that it is YOUR belief and you are in no way asking them to do what you say.
If the situation has become tense you can always ask to talk about it another time. Using "I" statements allows you to keep control of the situation by not passing blame. For example, "I don't think now is the best time to discuss this as I am feeling pretty tense, do you mind if we talk about it another time? Say tomorrow evening on the phone?" Putting a time and place on the subject lets the person know you still care about it but you need some time. Which is totally OK!
TIP #4 If the situation gets out of hand, SHUT IT DOWN!
In a passionate, heated conversation it's not always easy to stay calm and keep control of the situation. In this circumstance it's okay to say "I care about you but I would prefer not to talk about this anymore are we okay to agree to disagree and change the subject?" This can allow you to carry on the conversation but also address that the current topic is not getting anywhere. If you would like to discuss it later feel free to say, "If you are open to discussing this at a later time when the situation is more calm I am ok to do so I just need some space away from it right now". This lets the person know you are not stonewalling the topic or them you just need space. Which again, is OK!
TIP #5 You don't always have to support and/or agree
If the situation is something you do not support OR agree with it is more than okay to say so! And NO! If a person is confiding illegal activities or something you do not want to partake in you have the right to not only take further action if you please but let them know clearly "I do not support this decision and I would prefer not to talk about it anymore". If you are taking further actions it is totally up to you if you want to disclose this at the time however if you do not want to speak with them again I do suggest letting them know clearly by saying, "I also do not want to be in contact with you anymore so I will not be responding to any further communications".
CLEARLY is the key word. Do not leave any room for interpretations. This could not only cause unnecessary drama but get you in trouble legally. Draw the line in the sand and be done with it.
Clear, concise communication is KEY to cultivating mature conversations that insinuate growth. It is arrogant to think that everyone you care about is going to blindly agree with every decision you make, however the people in your bubble and close circle should most definitely be there supporting you in a way that makes you both feel comfortable <3