When I look around at people exchanging viewpoints, I notice that it almost always devolves to nothing more than fighting: attack, defend, counter-attack. And no, I don't mean arguing. I mean disrespectful, win at any cost, break the other guy down to build yourself up verbal warfare. Most glaringly, this happens in our political world where both sides are so entrenched in their ideologies that they are not even considering the viewpoint of the other.  Instead of attempting to reach a compromise, the issue is put aside and an all out attack is launched to destroy the opposition’s character.  If this is accomplished, then the path is clear to forge ahead with the original agenda unscathed.

I haven't been around long enough to say for sure where this cycle started, but I can say that it is a cycle and, like any cycle, it will continue until it is broken. I don’t have the solution for this problem, at least on the grand scale. What I can say is something that will be a theme in anything you read from me: It is your responsibility to break this cycle in your life.

Here is what has worked for me with good success in my life. Firstly, the most important thing to remember in any conversation is what your goal is. Is your goal to make the other person believe what you do? If so, really ask yourself what it is like for you when people shove their views down your throat. In my life, I have never met anyone who loved to be dominated in a conversation. My experience has led me to regularly strive for two things and they both fall under the umbrella of respectful communication. The first is to feel like the other person really hears and understands my side. The second is to really try to listen to and understand their side of things. These two things are inseparable. If you listen, they are more likely to listen. If you respect their view, they are more likely to do the same for you. Not always, but often and more and more as you improve your respectful communication skills.

Each time I've considered this approach to a conversation, it has brought me to think about a person in my life who was particularly hard for me to communicate with. Was it really possible for this to change? Maybe, maybe not. This cycle is deeply ingrained in our culture. Some may find your new approach refreshing, but many will find it insulting and will become further entrenched in their combative ways. At least at first. This is an issue of trust. They may think that you are only tricking them into being open to your side just to attack them once their defenses are down. Keep the course. There is no excuse for treating someone with disrespect and the worst excuse of all is that they started it. This is childish and if you're a child, then you have every right to fight fire with fire. As adults, we need to learn to put fires out.

Once you've decided on a new set of goals, the next and only necessary step is consistency. When you are attacked, attempt to listen better. Show a person you understand them and they will pull back their troops. When you realize that you are on the attack, pull yourself back. If you can't do it in the moment, apologize for it later. This will help for future conversations with that person and it will build trust. Once trust is established, you'd be amazed at how much more can be communicated without hurt feelings.

As Dan Doty would say, “Grow Up!” Winning an argument at any cost does not make you a victor, it makes you the biggest baby. It takes strength, commitment, and integrity to sacrifice winning an argument to maintain respect. This also makes you a winner in the end anyway, as you will form deeper relationships with greater trust because of it.

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