Are you still arguing or are you already communicating?
You are unique. Unparalleled and wonderful. With unerring acceptance, you are completely different from me. You not only look different from me, you also think differently. You have a different opinion than me on various things and will certainly not approve of everything I or other people do or how we think and argue. Actually, this diversity could be a wonderful advantage, but as a conflict manager I have been observing a development for some time: people no longer listen to each other and communicate past each other. Many judge and condemn people without seriously dealing with the other person and his or her concrete situation. Consequently, many discussions come to nothing.
Communicating with experts in all situations
Subjectively, we live in a society where everyone seems to have an opinion on every subject. We see ourselves as experts and give our unfiltered, but quite sharp, two cents on all kinds of topics. And everyone seems to believe that their opinion is important and right, which almost automatically means that the other person’s opinion, if it is different, is not right.
We have become accustomed to commenting on everything in social media. We welcome comments on our comments and collect likes as if they were air to breathe. We are economists, foreign policy experts, virologists and environmentalists all rolled into one. We are prosecutors and judges, psychologists and teachers-in-chief. And woe betide any person who dares to take a position outside the mainstream, we like to argue with our half-knowledge at the belt.
“Stop!” you may object. “Not everyone is like that! Not everyone has to put their two cents in on everything. And of course there are those people who gallantly overlook the mistakes of others and simply try to listen seriously.” That’s right, of course there are those people too. Maybe they’re not particularly visible on social media. Maybe they don’t go to demos. And maybe in their eyes alternative facts are simply untruths. These people are often prepared to question their own positions and to let the other person’s opinion stand for what it is: his opinion.
The ability to communicate
Imagine you have a choice between two options:
Option A: We seek conflict in a discussion. We judge each other and each insists on his or her position. Of course, we always know what the other person means or why he or she thinks “wrong”. In short: we make life difficult for each other.
Option B: We practise constructive dialogue and meet each other with empathy and transparency. We exchange views on a specific topic and know that communication is not easy, even though we speak the same language. We try to understand the other person before communicating our own opinion and perspective. And: one’s personal opinion is not more important than the other person’s opinion.
Which option do you find more desirable? In my experience, option B requires the ability to communicate. This ability is based on a genuine interest in the other person and in the exchange of perspectives and assessments. In addition, there is the knowledge that opinions are always subjective and that tolerance towards other opinions and experiences is necessary for a meaningful dialogue.
The ingredients for a meaningful exchange of opinions
If you want to accept the opinions of others as such, you need honesty and clarity. They must know what they want and communicate it clearly. Of course, positions may also be held firmly and quite controversially. However, it is primarily about the exchange of perspectives, not about being right or getting right. In order for a meaningful exchange of views to succeed, a few ingredients – we could also call them thought supports – are very useful:
It takes two people to have an argument, and only one person to end an argument!
It is never the other person’s fault alone when there is an argument! If two people quarrel, then EVERYONE involved has their share in it. It is a ludicrous misconception that we argue solely because of the other party. Each party has an equal share, which can be proven by the fact that the conflict ends immediately when one half stops arguing completely. In other words, the conflict is considered to be over. An argument always needs at least two people, arguing alone is not possible. As a conflict manager, I even claim that there is no blame at all, but only different definitions of situations and people.
The question of guilt is sometimes a popular instrument to keep an argument boiling. In order not to have to give in – simply put, in order not to deal constructively with a possible solution or clarification. Which would definitely be more sensible and result-oriented.
Talk about meaning and goals!
You certainly have different values, needs and interests than I do. You are the way you are and I am the way I am – we could leave each other alone and not change/educate the other person. If our opinions, views and needs and also our interests cannot be reconciled, then we could ask ourselves whether we can find a common goal at all.
Example: We are having a conversation about which drive is better: diesel or electric? You are concerned about the greatest possible environmental protection, sustainability and harmony between people and nature. I have to get from A to B, which is a long way away, and I want to be as independent of others as possible. If environmental protection were unimportant to me (it isn’t), then we can’t come to a common denominator in our discussion. In such a case, the exchange of arguments, data and facts almost automatically leads nowhere.
For an exchange to succeed, it is essential to ask the other party’s goal at the beginning of the communication. Without a common goal, an exchange cannot succeed. In such a case, you might as well save the time for the unsuccessful discourse.
The moment you have succeeded in perceiving and appreciating your counterpart as a human being again, the solution for clarifying the conflict will also reveal itself to you.
People like and appreciate it very much when you are interested in them and listen to them. If your counterpart is not yet listening to you, Stephanie Huber will gladly listen to you. She helps you to gain a different perspective. Often this is already enough for you to generate clarification yourself. You can reach her at https://konsensation.de/ or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stephanie Huber has published other articles in the t2informatik blog, e.g.
Stephanie Huber is founder and managing director of konSENSation GmbH. She works enthusiastically as a mediator with a focus on business mediation and conflict management and helps companies and executives to improve the working atmosphere.