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It's crucial for solving problems.
It's crucial for solving problems. / Jose Luis Pelaez/Getty Images

It’s a skill that will no doubt come in handy during this coming election year: the ability to disagree without being, well, disagreeable. “We don’t all agree on everything, so it’s something we have to hone our entire lives,” says Sara Hacala, certified business etiquette and protocol consultant and author of Saving Civility. Plus, respectful disagreement is crucial to compromise and problem-solving. Here’s how to find harmony in discord:

If you know what always presses your buttons ...

don’t engage. If your brother-in-law’s bluster never fails to get you steamed, it’s best to change the subject or excuse yourself from the conversation as soon as it starts.

If you're out to win ...

ask yourself what that verbal victory will cost. “If you’re hellbent on crushing the other person, there’s no way you’ll be able to discuss it in a respectful manner,” Hacala says. “Arguing your point isn’t usually worth ruining a relationship over.”

If you're both open-minded ...

stick to the facts and keep your tone and body language neutral. “Nothing makes people as angry as when they feel their words are twisted or being taken out of context,” Hacala warns. Using solid information and avoiding labels will keep the conversation from getting too personal.

If you're unsure of the situation ...

listen. Who knows? You might learn something.

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