What is arguing?
To me, it is debate. Two or more minds clash on concepts, ideas, assumptions, suppositions (even redundancies), and that is really all it is. We can, of course, rationalize the truth of the need for the argument into infinity. But might that not simply lead to another argument? That truth is all relative, for instance?
Taken out of context, arguing can literally escalate to far out-do any game of Family Feud or Hatfield and McCoy Neighbour Knock-Down and even war, if the power holders fail to reach some agreement to, as my friend so eloquently puts it, “respectfully disagree.” Imagine the centuries of strife humans could have been spared if someone revolted against carrying old battles forward into the future, publicly, politically and within families. The kind of history I would like to make is one founded on respect.
Respect is the operative word. Respect for ideas, respect for beliefs, respect for others and respect for myself intact, that I respected others. Respectfully disagreeing is one option in this way of being. In the heat of an argument there is no room for disrespect.
Oh, I know people online especially on so-called “social” sites can develop a “keyboard warrior” mentality and publicly disrespect others as well as themselves with every keystroke. Why not? We live in a world where it’s okay for politicians on podiums to slag one another off verbally for the sake of a vote or two. But they’ll not have mine. Nor will any person who resorts to “slagging” anyone for their character or way of being in the world as a form of argument, whether private or in public. To me, that is simply a sign that their argument had no acceptable foundation whatsoever.
Arguments are bound to happen whether with family, friends, room mates, co-workers, service providers or teachers. Teachers, however can take many forms in my world and the official title need not apply in academics. These people who teach us as we observe how to “argue” with health show up every where. From self-help books and talk show relationship advisors to the local merchant who may drop a wise kernel in your communications psyche without even knowing he or she did so. It may even be a friend who just listens well and instead of offering advice on how to resolve the “argument,” simply asks questions until you find your own answers.
There truly are moments in life when we can be our own best psychologists but in the emotion of the moment, our psyche can get snagged on what we perceive as a barb when it was merely a new rent forming in the fence that you might both pass through together.
I am neither a psychologist nor a communications specialist but I do have a few insights into arguing fairly that might help anyone who feels they are against a wall with no way out.
1. No name calling or labelling. Whenever we resort to such things as name-calling and/or denigration of character, we are already wrong. Disengage would be my option in this situation, cut it off and permit no further abuse.
2. No justifying. Whenever we are justifying, justifying, justifying, we are already wrong. A psychologist I worked with years ago told me this and it stuck. In the midst of disagreement, I try to pull focus, see the bigger picture when I am caught up in justifying. If I find myself justifying, I stop. Disarming both of us, this naturally achieves de-escalation, usually.
3. Healthy only. Healthy argument is not about being “right” or harming another. It is about growth, knowledge and enlightenment. Curiously, the enlightenment is often our own and not at all the other party(s). It can be as simple as recognizing there is no way out and choosing, as I said in an earlier piece, “silence as communication.” You may simply agree that while, you don’t see the situation under discussion in exactly the same way, that is really okay between you and you can leave it right there. This only works if both parties agree to “leave it there” and follow through. If one or the other cannot, it is a sure sign of a “disgruntled arguer” who wants their view to be the presiding conclusion as opposed to reaching a place of mutually respectful “understanding.” This is about control and in no way healthy in my book of life.
4. Kindness. When all else fails, remember your kindness. We all have kindness within us and sometimes this kindness may simply take the form of removing yourself from the situation as I recently did when no words could break a stalemate. We have since moved onward and upward because each of us gave thought to the situation and returned anew, fresh ideas the conduit between us.
5. What can I learn? See it as learning because the truth is, we can’t learn anything new if we already agree whole heartedly or if we already know it and there is nothing worse than a know it all. Ask yourself, what can I learn here? Perhaps it is some new information, perhaps it is something about the other person(s) or something you did not know about yourself. Ask them questions to clarify what is being said. Arguments escalate all too rapidly on the fuel of misunderstanding.
6. Being Human. Recognize your own “humanness” and that you may fail. But failing, as in resorting to abuses of name calling and/or labelling is only an apology away from repair. This applies to the other party(s) as well. They, too, have a choice in recognizing, acknowledging and apologizing for their weaknesses.
Some of us took part in debates during our educational process where a moderator was always present. Sometimes I imagine there is a moderator when I am in a heated one on one situation and this instantly brings perspective because I find myself thinking, what would the moderator do or say? The heated debate or argument usually takes a positive turn at that juncture for both of us.
- What does you can’t argue with ignorance mean (wiki.answers.com)
- Arguments: Why They Are Healthy (halfdiminished.wordpress.com)
- Teaching teens to argue well an essential skill: expert (ctv.ca)