The Benefit of Debate
I was in the car with an attorney friend who was discussing with his previous law partner a legal case. After a passionate disagreement about the best approach to take in the case, he surprised me by ending the conversation with “I love you Buddy.”
When I asked him about this apparent contradiction, he said, “I love working with this guy! We think differently, yet we can be totally straight forward about disagreeing with each other. We complement each other perfectly. ”
It struck me that this rare quality—the ability to openly disagree without bitterness and resentment—is one of the key ingredients to any outstanding partnership, whether romantic or professional. When two people can be candid with each other without becoming defensive or ready to capitulate or dig in, they can have productive, creative, and lively discussions about daily challenges and opportunities. Moreover, it will make their relationship interesting and animated.
To discuss differences productively, we should focus on having the following two motivations:
1. to figure out and consider the merits of what the other person believes and wants, and
2. to express ourselves in a way that the other person will listen to us without becoming defensive.
To communicate effectively and avoid bitter arguments, we can try the following:
1. Listen carefully and really try to understand what the other person thinks and feels. Put ourselves in his or her shoes.
2. Let the other person finish his or her thoughts before interrupting with another point of view.
3. Use body language and tone of voice that won’t trigger the other person when expressing ourselves.
4. Be ready to simply accept our differences. There is no need to have total agreement all the time. Sometimes finesse, patience, and multiple discussions are necessary to find a win-win solution.
Relationships improve when people can discuss their true opinions both passionately and compassionately. When you are motivated to enhance your relationship by respecting the other person, communication becomes passionate, effective and rewarding.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD