Think about the last argument you got into. Did you win? Did you lose? Did it matter? Did you get angry and did it end uncomfortably? How did it make you feel and how did it make the other person feel? If you won the argument, how much did you really gain, and how much did you actually lose?
If our focus is in the wrong place, we all “lose” arguments. We see things a certain way and have all the facts to back it up. We consider it our mission to convince the other person to agree with our perspective by ramrodding our facts into the conversation. However, we don’t win an argument by overpowering or silencing the other person. When that happens, even if we “won” the argument that way, we actually lost the argument.
We need to ask ourselves, “What is most important: the relationship or being right?” It is the relationship. We both “win” an argument if the issue is discussed between both parties and the relationship remains good. Conflicts usually come from differences in opinion. Good relationships can overcome differences of opinion.
Trying to win an argument usually comes across as belittling the other person in a manner beyond the specifics of the argument itself. The conflict ceases to be about the matter at hand and becomes all about negating the other person. The argument is experienced as a struggle for our own integrity, self-respect, and the respect of others. Our entire self-image becomes dependent upon winning the argument.
In the midst of an argument, sometimes the best thing to do is to state loudly and clearly what the goal really should be. The real goal is to come out the other end of the argument with the relationship even stronger. If we can do that, the argument will resolve itself. There will be a mutual understanding and respect.
If our perspective is correct and the other person is wrong, the focus still needs to remain on the relationship. If the relationship remains good, we can work through our points and come to an understanding. On the other hand, if the manner in which we pursue our points trashes the relationship, there is no hope. We end up digging in our heels and they dig in theirs. When relationships are senselessly destroyed this way, businesses can crumble and partnerships can dissolve. And all because people don’t know how to talk to each other. The more passionate we are about our perspective, the more attentive we need to be towards the other person and the relationship. This is called the art of communication. To communicate is to commune. And to commune is all about the relationship.
Admittedly, this is a paradigm quite different than many, but is the best way to make your point and to convince others of your perspective. This goes far beyond “agreeing to disagree.” By keeping the focus on the relationship, the points of both sides can be made. Yet they will be made in a way that keeps the door open for reflection by both parties. Over time, the opposing perspective can then be appreciated.
If the relationship remains strong, the truth will come out. If the other person blows it, it’s important to not rub their face in how they handled the situation poorly. It just inflames things. We do well to keep in mind that, deep inside, people know when they have made a mistake or are out of line. They will better deal with that knowing if we give them the space to reflect upon it in their own time and in their own way.
Relationships are an art, and even more so when in conflict. To be a winner, we need to focus on the art of communication. We try to win arguments largely out of ego and low self-esteem. The best way to build a strong and healthy self-esteem is by behaving in a manner that wins us respect from others and also from ourselves. In the final analysis, it is always about cultivating a good relationship with people. If we are respected, our perspectives will be heard and reflected upon more sincerely. Then, regardless of the outcome on the surface, we come out of every argument a winner.
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