The ability to have productive disagreements is a superpower.
But disagreement or an argument usually has toxicity associated with it, with judgment, self-protection and a sense of conflict.
In a disagreement, often certain crucial information isn't available or isn't clearly understood by either person. We need to ask ourselves if:
Anxiety spikes happen when something triggers us during an argument, usually when what that we care about feels threatened.
We need to be aware of these spikes to guide us into the emotional aspect of the argument, rather than only focusing on information.
A common mistake during arguments is when we speak on behalf of other people and groups.
Arguments then become a free-for-all, as anyone can jump in and argue back. Also, we tend to exaggerate, oversimplify and stereotype when we speak outside of our own experience, making our position in the disagreement vulnerable.
Neglecting the emotional part of the argument and focusing solely on facts and information is a common blunder.
A better way is to ask open-ended questions and try to find the root cause of the argument. For example, one could ask: “This clearly matters to you, can you help me understand why?”
Keeping an open mind gives you a wider field of view.
Turn off the clinical brain that just wants knowable answers quickly, and see the world through the other's perspective, noticing things you may have blocked or overlooked.
Biases are your ready-made encyclopedia of all the answers you need to prove yourself right, which can be a disaster in any argument.
Hold off your biases and try to find growth and new perspectives that come out of a productive disagreement. Take the conversation as a learning opportunity.
Disagreements cannot be resolved over Slack or Email. Try to do them in person, or at least over the phone.
Make sure your environment is neutral, and if anything can hamper the discussion, change the venue.
Aporia is an ancient Greek concept of realizing that our interpretations and beliefs don't lead us to the truth.
Winning an argument isn't the goal, and true wisdom is to have big, deep conversations that help us grow and connect.
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