Do you know what you're arguing about?
I absolutely hate to argue. It is highly rare that I argue with my friends and I certainly try not to argue within my intimate relationships. With that said, the lawyer in me loves a good debate. I do believe that adhering to some core principles of debate would alleviate a lot of arguments. Listen to your opponent’s position. Don’t speak until they’re time is up. And, only debate the points raised in their argument.
Over the holiday weekend, I went to visit my best sister-friend and her husband to celebrate their son’s fifth birthday. I absolutely love being around them because they renew my belief that the black family is in tact and thriving. Moreover, they are both highly intelligent and entertaining. I know there are no perfect couples, but the way they run their marriage is a great standard to emulate and inspire.
After putting the kids to bed, we all gathered to watch the NFL Playoffs and chat. My sister-friend and her husband, who is a former pro athlete, are both Real Housewives of Atlanta fans. (Don’t tell ‘em I told you.) He said he’d heard that they’d made $30,000 per episode and we began to debate the accuracy of the information. I thought that was high for cable and he agreed with me. Then, he told my sister-friend, “See, I told you!”
They began a debate over whether or not they’d previously debated this topic and how he’d come upon the salary information. It was a hilarious, harmless squabble over something trivial, but it did go on for thirty minutes. In fact, my sister-friend’s mom looked at her watch and said to me, “Let’s see how long this goes on.” I finally interjected that the sole reason for the disagreement was because they were arguing two different points. When, in reality, they did not disagree with each other on either point.
The next night my sister-friend’s husband and I got into a similar friendly mental joust over who was more authentic; Jay-Z or Kanye? I argued that they were equally authentic to who they are and their backgrounds. I asserted that what he really meant was that Kanye was more unique as a rapper because of the subject matter that he chose to rap about on his records. This debate went on even longer until we realized again that we actually agreed with each other, rendering the disagreement moot.
Our debates were all in fun and full of mutual respect on all sides. But, it got me to thinking about the origin of most arguments. It usually involves two people not listening to each other’s point of view and arguing two different points. Think about the last argument you had, more than likely, you were not arguing about the same thing. All the while, complaining that the other person wasn’t hearing you.
My analysis of our weekend debates was that we were all so consumed by being right and proving the other person wrong we didn’t take a moment to listen openly to their position. We cut each other off, dismissed the other’s points, and then ultimately realized that we both had valid positions. Once we opened our ears, were courteous, and talked directly to the raised points, there was no longer an issue.
I know it sounds simple, because it is. The next time you’re on the brink of an argument, pull yourself back and start listening. Remember those principles and avoid the never fruitful act of arguing altogether. If you are going to argue, at least know what you’re arguing about.
Wishing you love and ceaseless joy!
Follow @NathanHWilliams on Twitter
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