Too often, when in the midst of a discussion or debate, people get worked up when others refuse to accept their opinions. Just because a person does not accept your viewpoint does not mean that you should take it to heart. A rejection of one’s ideas is not a rejection of a person as a whole. Furthermore, we cannot allow ourselves to walk away from these situations without understanding ourselves and the other(s).
We have all encountered situations like this at one point or another. You engage in a back-and-forth exchange with a friend, family member or colleague on some topic. After an exhausting debate both parties have become angered, bitter, frustrated, irate or some other negative emotional state. It’s likely that both experience a combination of several emotional states that don’t feel all that good. In fact, you’re probably left wondering, “Was it worth investing all that energy to have this ______ (fill in the blank accordingly) not get a thing that I said?”
Regardless of whether you think it was worth it or not, be sure to maintain a realistic sense of what really happened. This will prove to be difficult, because strong emotions can cloud our memories; yet, it’s imperative that one honestly reflects on what occurred. Try to make it a learning experience and gain a deeper sense of understanding about yourself and the one with who you were in disagreement. A simple dismissal of those on the “wrong” side of the discussion will leave you worse off than before you started: emotionally drained without knowledge gained. Do this and you essentially are a “stuper” (see Counterfeit Humans).
Here are some guiding principles for the discussion (in no particular order):
1. Be a teacher, not a missionary or preacher. Proselytization is not well received in these situations.
2. Focus on what’s important. Don’t nitpick. Keep your points to the true substance of the discussion and avoid being critical of inconsequential details. Nitpicking forces others to become defensive and annoyed, further fueling the debate with negative emotions.
3. Be respectful. Sounds simple, but often it eludes us in these situations. Try to maintain a reasonable volume, allow others to finish their thoughts, and infuse respectful expressions or phrases into the conversation to maintain a peaceful exchange.
4. Listen actively. Pay attention to how your counterpart feels and ask relevant, clarifying questions. Don’t be a smart ass and keep all accusations to yourself.
I understand that this list is not exhaustive and encourage any readers add comments with their own ideas.
Obviously, there are topics that people tie strongly to there sense of self or being, most notably religion and politics. In discussions involving these matters, it will prove ten times more difficult to maintain a calm, peaceful exchange; yet, it doesn’t mean that it cannot be done.