The word ‘argue’ conjures up an array of combative, formidable words and an energetic use of persuasion, logic and facts, to bolster our view of the world, and convince others that we are not only right, but that they must be a fool to think anything else.
If you want to get all philosophical about it, which my wife claims is when she knows it is time to switch off, and go back to her task in hand, Sartre the great French thinker (the French are after all philosophically superior to the rest of us mortals) said that in the absence of extrinsic meaning, the way we think about how we live our lives becomes the blueprint of our very being.
Anyone who lives differently to us, or thinks differently to us, generates a challenge to our own existence. And is a contest with all that we are.
I think that’s what he said. Was a bit too complicated for me to get my head around, to be honest.
If we see winning the argument as the goal for arguing in the first place, perhaps we will generate far more heat than light, and not get beyond the challenges we face. Certainly not as far as we could with a more open approach to the argue or dialogue process.
A wonderful book, called Conflicted by Ian Leslie, talks about the use of "productive disagreement”. He postulates that in arguments, we should strive for a connection with the other side by actually really listening to what they have to say. He says we should be significantly more curious, humorous, aware of how we are coming across and ready to acknowledge our own inadequacies and mistakes.
Using dialogue, we have with others not simply as a way to convert, but also as a way to absorb and move forward might be a good thing.
Two ways you might want to think about doing this are firstly to put yourself in the other parties’ shoes. If I stood in their role, position, or faced the challenge that they face, how would I behave?
You may then see the conflict or misalignment of objectives in a much clearer way.
The second is to switch off your transmitter and toggle your brain to receive. Ask lots of questions to aid understanding. Even if you disagree with their position at least attempt to understand it, truly understand it.
You might not agree with them, but you have a far better chance of finding a compromise if you understand how important it is to them.
Before I began looking into negotiation as a method of resolving conflict, I used to conflate negotiation with persuasion. Now I see the two as close relatives as we will find ourselves using persuasive language when we negotiate, in order to better sell our solutions.
But really negotiation is what we do when overt selling of our position fails.
And you can’t argue with that. Oh yes, I can. That’s not an argument that’s just a contradiction.
Watch this for a blast from the past.