I love a good debate, but I think that one of my biggest areas for personal growth is my ability to preserve the relationship while advocating my position. I often find myself so wrapped up in making my case that I forget I am engaged in conversation with another human. My attention is consumed by ensuring the soundness of my argument rather than the soundness of the connection between us. Although I may end up getting the conversational upper-hand, I do so at the cost of damaging the relationship. Why do I allow this to happen? It happens because I am choosing the wrong mode of discourse. I am using debate even though I rarely find myself in a situation that requires true debate. Normal, everyday situations require dialog. These two words, debate and dialog, sound alike but they are very different both in their form and in their purpose. Debate is a formal argument, the point of which is to persuade, although the target of your persuasion may an audience and not even your fellow debater. Debates belong on a stage, with rules and a moderator. The highest purpose of debate is the advancement of ideas. Relationships are secondary, if that.
The situations that we encounter in our daily lives require dialog, not debate. Dialog serves a very different purpose and should take on a very different structure. The purpose of dialog is to learn. Notice I did not say "teach". Each participant in a dialog is responsible for their own learning. This obligation to learn is the cost of admission. When you engage in dialog with partners, each of whom has the obligation to learn, what emerges is a flow of information, a give-and-take of ideas. The interaction is marked by a mutual respect for the other person and an honoring of their perspective. In the end, a beautiful byproduct of healthy dialog is a deepening and strengthening of the relationship. In fact, when it comes to dialog, the relationship is the end game.
Why is it so easy to get wrapped up in my own perspective at the expense of the relationship? Part of the answer is purely related to my ego. On some level I fear being wrong, or less, in the eyes of others and I fight for the only thing that I have in the moment…my ideas. Many of us have strong egos. What can we do to ensure our ego doesn't dominate? Here are three suggestions...
We all cherish our own ideas and we hold our beliefs dear. Ironically, our ideas and beliefs come to life when we are sharing them with other people.
We interact with people every day. For most of us, most of the time, our conversations more about the relationship than the ideas themselves. Keeping this in sight will ensure the relationship is there the next time we want it.
If you care to share your own related experiences, feel free to post them in the comments section below or you can email us at [email protected].
Photocredit: Pete Wright