Stop Arguing About Who’s Right

Posted by Beetle B. on Mon 27 March 2017

At the heart of the What Happened conversation is a disagreement. Argument is the natural outcome of disagreement. But it is not helpful.

We generally assume the other person is the problem (e.g. naive, lacks domain knowledge, etc). As a response, we tend to assert harder (e.g. nagging).

Or we try to “educate” them. Our persistence leads to arguments. We get frustrated.

The other party has similar thoughts.

Think about this: If the other person is irrational, and you explore why there is a conflict, how come the other person never says “Because what I say makes no sense?”

Arguments are not just the result of our failure to realize there are different stories. It is also the cause.

Arguing inhibits change. Telling someone to change makes it less likely that change will occur. People will not change if they felt they have not been understood.

Why We Each See The World Differently

We Have Different Information

The information available to us is overwhelming, so we’ll absorb different things.

Also, if we care more about feelings, we’ll attend to that more. Same if we care more about logic.

Another aspect to all this is that we have access to different facts that can augment/annotate our inputs. We know stuff about ourselves that others don’t. I may have stayed up late but the boss doesn’t know that.

The same is true about the other party. We should be aware that they have knowledge that we don’t.

We Have Different Interpretations

We may acknowledge the same facts, but interpret them differently. This information is due to:

  1. Our past experiences
  2. The rules we learned about how things should or should not be done.

Past Experiences

Our experiences affect our interpretations. When interpretations differ, consider differing past experiences as the potential cause.

Differing Implicit Rules

As an example: How late is late?

Anything that you think you should or shouldn’t do.

In general, rules are good, but be aware of colliding rules.

Our Conclusions Reflect Self-Interest

Generally, our conclusions reflect our self-interest.

Move From Certainty to Curiosity

Don’t ask: “How can they think that?” Ask “What information do they have that I don’t?”

Instead of “How can they be so irrational?” Ask “How might they see the world such that their view makes sense?”

Certainty locks out their story. Curiosity lets it in.

What is my story? We often don’t think our story through, even though it explains our behavior. Pretend you have to explain it to someone else.

Embrace Both Stories: The “And” Stance

Don’t try to find out whose story is right. Embrace both of them. Accepting their story is not rejecting our own. It is also not agreeing with it.

Do this even if you are factually right. You need to understand his story to convince him.

Even if the decision has been made (e.g. firing someone), understand the other person’s story. State your outcome (e.g. firing someone) and keep chaining the “ands” (“and I understand the impact on your family, and I’m not changing my mind, and I know you feel wronged, etc”).

tags : communication, dc