Disagreements done Right!

The importance of a GOOD ARGUMENT!

Good arguments are the foundations of good relationships. For understandable reasons, most of us don’t like to argue and avoid it whenever possible.  While avoiding open disagreement may be the norm in many situations,  it’s not a great plan for building strong relationships, keeping frustration and resentment at bey, and learning through differences of opinion. Perhaps we need a different take on what a good argument is?

Whether among teammates, family members, co-workers, or perfect strangers, arguments take place when disagreements and tensions come to the surface. In many cases, they culminate in a no holds barred battle between two opposing points of view, where one opponent tries to vanquish the other. In other words, win at all cost. Arguments can easily become emotionally charged at the expense of logic, reason and decorum.

There are, however, a host of problems with the ‘battle of the ideas’ interpretation of the argument.  Combative arguments run the risk of becoming full blown fights (in the worst cases involving fists or even weapons of mass destruction!).  From an informational perspective, this type of verbal/conceptual battle misses the opportunity for both parties to become better informed, less stressed, and better connected.

If we look at arguments from a slightly different angle, it’s easy to see that they have the potential to deliver valuable insights, improved perspective and reduced tension for all parties. A more productive style of argument can be derived by lightly tweaking a few of the basic premises that we take for granted when we debate or discuss things we differ about.

  1. The objective of a good argument is to understand each others position and get to the bottom of the matter, not to establish who won and lost.
    1. A good arguer tries to understand the other side if the argument, from the other point of view.
  2. Good arguers take turns talking and (more importantly) listening.
    1.  Fight the urge to mentally prepare a retort when you should be listening.                                                             *NOTE – Proper listening implies inner silence….Not rambling inner commentary.
  3. Good arguers give each other the benefit of doubt, by default.
    1. This means assuming that the differences you are addressing are rooted in confusion and misunderstandings, not character flaws.                                                                                                                                                    *NOTE – There is no point arguing with an irrational or unreasonable person, much less an evil one.  To do so is irrational and unreasonable by definition. (It’s also super unpleasant and unproductive…. Just walk away)
    2. That having been said, remember that very few people have harmful intentions. Being confused or poorly informed is very different from intending harm. In the same vein, acting mean is very different from being mean.
    3. Calmness, compassion and forgiveness are critical tools for resolving any argument.
  4. Everybody’s got an opinion. Good arguers know that opinions are only valuable when they relate to the truth.
    1. If an opinion has no relationship to the truth, there’s no reason to fuss about it.
    2. Good Arguments are tools for bringing all opinions into closer touch with reality.
  5. Character implies wanting to know what you have got wrong at least as much as you want to point out what they have got wrong.
    1. Good arguers are sensitive when delivering criticisms or discussing errors in perspective.
    2. Good arguers always learn. If not, they weren’t arguing. (Likely they are preaching, berating or monologuing)
    3. Good arguers want to know why the source and reasoning behind the opposing argument.
  6. Good arguers are prepared to adjust their point of view.
    1. A belief is an idea that is not subjected to adjustment or update (i.e. immovable)
    2. A hypothesis is an idea that is subjected to adjustment or update. (i.e. malleable)
    3. Re-frame any belief as a hypothesis and you’ll have a lot more fun debating what’s right and wrong about it!

A good argument should bring people and perspectives closer together.  Done right, both parties wind up with more information, less stress, and ideally, an improved hypothesis.


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