Have you ever felt GOOD after an ugly argument? Me neither.
Even on the rare (really rare) occasion when I was able to “agree to disagree” with whoever sat on the opposite end of that particular opinion scale, I still felt annoyed. Unhappy. It all felt unfinished…
It makes sense because arguments are never based on interest, curiosity or any sense of mutual benefit.
Arguments are based on duality. Right and wrong.
And, of course, we’re (always) right, and they’re (always) wrong. Hence the argument.
As a teenager (back in the day), most conversations with my parents quickly turned into ugly arguments. Some heated, some not. But I never felt ‘heard’. And always felt defeated.
The general rule of thumb was “parents = right, children = wrong”. End of story.
Fast forward a few decades, the tables turned and I suddenly found myself the PARENT of a teenager…
Yup, we argued. A lot.
But now the roles were reversed. She felt frustrated. And un-heard (what are the odds?).
I felt authoritatively annoyed. And disrespected.
Surely my status as the parent made me right (see above rule of thumb)? Apparently not…
But I digress.
Here’s the truth: all arguments occur from a low-emotional state. Always.
It’s from here that we feel fear/anger/frustration and all the other low-vibe feelings. And it’s also where we most need to be right. We believe that being right means something about who we are. That it makes us significant. That it validates us.
And at the same time, we think that being wrong would make us insignificant. Less than.
Needing to be right (and resisting being wrong) is simply an extension of our ego.
Yup, the dreaded ego.
That part of us that has us believing that how we look, what we do, and what we own is super-important. It’s the ego that tricks us into believing that what other people think of us matters. That it’s important to be liked, by as many people as possible.
It’s also our ego that tells us when to feel offended. And that words spewed from someone else’s mouth can mean anything about us.
And it’s our ego that facilitates the insane idea that anything OUTSIDE of us, can affect how we feel INSIDE. Bizarre, right?
So, it’s not hard to see why when we’re ego-based, we argue. Easily. And often.
But, take heart. It takes two people to argue.
Which means that everything I’ve mentioned above, applies to our fellow arguer.
Seriously, have you ever tried to argue with a happy person?
You just can’t… They laugh you off (a double-whammy for our already-fragile ego).
The crux of this topic is simply this: if the ultimate desired outcome is win-win (all parties feeling good), then arguing doesn’t cut it. Ever.
There is simply never a case where arguing has resolved anything satisfactorily for BOTH parties.
Either someone gives-in (and feels annoyed) or we part on bad terms. Even “agreeing-to-disagree” is achieved somewhat begrudgingly.
So, what’s the answer (you ask)?
Well, I believe it’s two-fold.
1. Measure The Mood
We’re feeling beings.
Everything we want is because we think it’ll make us feel good.
Imagine yourself achieving a goal you’ve set for yourself. About anything. Maybe weight loss? Cleaning your closet? Finishing a marathon?
Think about how it will FEEL when you achieve that goal. I’ll bet it’s a good feeling? Right?
How we feel always determines how we experience any event.
For example: Imagine you get home from work feeling frazzled after a tough day, and your kids start fighting over the last donut. How do you react? Not well, I’m sure…
Now imagine you stop at a yoga class on your way home. You arrive feeling calm and relaxed. The same fight ensues. How do you react? More compassion, less yelling. They’re just kids being kids, after all…
Same event. Different emotional state. Different experience.
And the same applies when we face a disagreement within a conversation.
It’s quite simple – if one or both of us are in a low emotional state, STOP.
Because, from here, we won’t hear each other. At all.
From here, I’ll want to be right! And make you wrong!
Hit “pause” and change the subject to something that you have little to no personal or emotional attachment to. Or leave the room.
It’s a rule I follow in my own life every day. And it’s shifted my relationship with my (now adult) daughter completely.
Simply CHECK YOUR MOOD. And theirs.
Because we have the foresight to know that nothing will ever be resolved from a low emotional state.
It’s not a judgment or a guess. It’s a fact.
2. Acknowledge and Respect Different Perspectives
The sum of our conditions and experiences through our lives produces a specific set of values and beliefs.
And whilst there are no less than 8 billion of us, we’re ALL UNIQUE. Not one person is the same as another. Fact.
Which means, yup, our PERSPECTIVES are all unique too.
And whilst we may share certain values and/or beliefs with others of similar upbringings, we are all inherently different.
My siblings and I were all brought up in the same conditions and taught the same beliefs and values by our parents.
Yet, as adults, we see life very differently.
And, after a few glasses of wine, any given topic can be quite noisily debated at length.
But here’s the thing.
My perspective works for me. In my reality.
It makes sense. To me.
When we can extend that courtesy to everyone else, suddenly the tension eases.
My opinion is right (for me). And yours is right (for you)!
I don’t need you to admit you’re wrong so that I can feel validated. I’m simply happy with my own personal view.
I feel good anyway.
And I’ll simply listen to your view, with curiosity.
So, let’s recap:
Check your mood.
Check their mood.
Then simply acknowledge their perspective and listen with curiosity.
THAT’S how it’s done.
THAT’S how to avoid an argument.