How much did you accomplish in your last debate over gay rights or the Mormon feminist movement? What about the last time you had a disagreement with your spouse or significant other? Looking back on these experiences, we often feel that there was a better way to handle the situation. If you know what you want to accomplish with an argument and remember to be respectful, progress is yours.
Progress, like understanding others better or finding solutions, is the end goal of most debates. When this desired outcome is forgotten, arguments easily become contentious. Emotion takes the wheel and buckles up for a drive-by shooting on opposing ideas. Emotion is important and motivating, but too much expression can send things screeching out of control.
Remembering to be respectful is the best way to keep peace and connect. Interruptions are often prevalent in contentious debates. If you need clarification right away to understand someone’s view, ask. Otherwise, let them finish. Pay attention to what they say; you might pick up something new.
Work to understand, and then express yourself in gracious manner. Don’t degrade or belittle. Show them that you comprehend what they have said, give them your honest, but civil, feedback, and then contribute with your own thoughts. We connect by listening, responding and sharing, not just sharing alone.
Sure, it’s not easy, but it makes a difference. Treat others with the respect you want— and then expect it of them in return.
Fort Collins, Colorado