I hate arguments.
You know what happens. Somebody gets mad about something you did. Anger brews. It stays carefully bottled up until you make your approach. Then it explodes like Mentos dropping into a bottle of Diet Coke.
By the way, if you want to see what that looks like, click here.
Anyway, almost instantly both of you are stressed out. Neither of you will probably change your mind for the better. And you might even part as enemies.
What really happens in an argument?
The obvious thing is a difference of opinion.
Here’s what’s not so obvious.
The reason we get offended is simple. You see, we all really want to believe we are right. In fact, if we don’t believe this often enough, we probably won’t leave the house. Going into a risky world is scary. Some assumption is necessary just to survive.
So when someone challenges your assumptions, you tend to see it as a threat.
And of course, sometimes it can be.
When you bring two people together who both feel the need to be right, there’s bound to be conflict.
Can a difference of opinion be a good thing?
Good or not, no two people agree on everything.
What really causes the argument isn’t the disagreement itself. We can disagree all day long and so long as we don’t talk about it, there’s no problem. It’s the resistance created by the challenge to your opinion that can spark a verbal battle.
Resistance comes when you try to force someone to accept your point of view.
Resistance comes when you tell someone she’s wrong and imply with your tone that she’s stupid.
Resistance comes when you give commands rather than make requests.
My kids took care of our friends’ dogs while they were on vacation. One of the dogs was pretty big. So sometimes he would stand there when my son wanted to walk. To get the dog to move, he would have to tug on the leash. Once my son had provided more resistance than the dog did, they started walking again.
Well, at least until the dog decided to stop and inspect the next neighbor’s mailbox.
Arguing can be a lot like that. You push and pull and don’t get far, if anywhere. What really makes a difference is how you handle a disagreement.
For a funny look at this, click here.
How can I make the most of any argument?
Dale Carnegie put it this way:
There are at least three things you can do to turn an argument from a nasty verbal battle to a friendly exchange.
The first thing to do is agree with what the other person says.
I know what you might be thinking. “Now wait a minute. You just said that it’s okay to disagree. You even said that nobody agrees on everything. So why are you now telling me to agree with what the other person says?”
Here’s what you’re agreeing with. You agree that she has the right to have her opinion. You also agree that she does indeed believe what she says she does. And finally, you agree that you disagree with her on that point.
Don’t you think you can agree to that?
The second thing is to do is listen first before responding.
Let her speak her peace. Ask questions. Put yourself in her shoes.
Maybe then you’ll at least understand why she believes the way she does.
If you can do that, you can then take the next step.
Third, reframe your point of view to serve the other person’s interests.
This is the key to overcoming the resistance that arises in an argument.
Here’s an example. You want your son to wear his helmet when he rides his bike. Do you threaten to ground him if you catch him without it? Do you demand he wear it under penalty of a life without video games? Or do you handle it like this …
When you notice him not wearing his helmet, ask him if it’s uncomfortable. Does it need to be adjusted? Is it too big or too small? Remind him that you really only want him to wear it because you love him. Gently tell him that a head injury might prevent him from doing some of the things he wants to do like playing baseball or … video games.
Which do you think is the better approach?
You can win more arguments with gentleness and tact than you can with force and punishment. Try it the next time you have a disagreement and see what a difference a reframe can make!