How to have a conversation. #10

As I had promised, here is the process you should go through, to productively discuss dire matters and or preferences.  I’ll take you through effective and practical steps you can take to have a civil conversation and annihilate the aura of animosity. 

To take the steps required, you have to know how your beliefs were formed. Think, how did you come to the conclusion. Were there facts you looked into, or maybe you actually ‘just’ formed a preference? Messi is my favorite football player. Nope, don’t argue with me on why Ronaldo is better, because I didn’t look into the facts to an apposite depth, he is just my favorite, even if Ronaldo wins 7 Ballon d’Ors. Maybe Ronaldo is better if we look into the facts or maybe Messi will come on top, either way the latter is my favorite. What just happened? Well I have made a preference out of what I have experienced of the play styles of the two. You can’t argue with me with facts and you shouldn’t at all. There is nothing to argue about, my preference to one athlete has no effect onto your player’s performance. Same for any athlete’s favoritism one might have. Why in the world do you want to argue about it? Now take it a bit sideways, if it comes down to preference (made by experience regardless of facts) rather than differentiating facts and information, then compromise is the way to go. There is no, “Because Shimla is colder than Srinagar, hence we are going there!” The statement implies that the opinion was made out of facts, check the facts. “No, actually Srinagar is colder.” There you go, problem solved. The person’s idea of preference was based on temperature and it got debunked, now you know where they are headed.

Step 1: Think about your view.

Yup. As Bruce Lee once said, “Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them”. Maybe, MAYBE, you ARE wrong. Just for the sake of worldly peace look into yourself. Take a good look into your opinion, is it morally correct, is it based on facts or is it just preference. Don’t fall for confirmation bias. Don’t go around looking for the ways your opinion is the best, look at the ways it might be wrong and then decide. Changing views, ideas, and beliefs is hard, our brains like to hold any thought for the sake of it, it hates change, it doesn’t care about right or wrong. But be conscious and think, thinking is hard, but powerful. You’ll also save yourself from a ton of embarrassment. These days social media apps like twitter spam you with chosen facts that make you ensconce on your ideas and opinions, it polarizes us all to an immense degree, be careful.

Step 2: Setting up the environment.

Okay step one is done and you know have come to the conclusion that you are right. How do I tell the other person that he/she is wrong? Right now, the question is, where do I tell the person he/she is wrong? Stop arguing over call and texts, I can’t emphasize this bit enough. Do not ever argue on calls or texts. I have been victim of text misinterpretation numerous times and the same on calls. I’m sure you have too. The voice tonality, facial expression, body language, all matter and now that they are missing, you can’t really  blame the other person on why they thought you meant, “Congratulations on your new job!” as a sarcasm. Because they have no way to figure out how you meant it. I have seen so many couple arguing over phone calls and the conversation turns to a death match in an instant. Just keep it in your head, don’t ever argue over something on texting or call. 

Find a quiet place, silent your phones and keep them in your pockets, don’t directly face each other. That instinctively comes off as predatory, not at all times but because the situation is already a bit off. That’s why conversation with new people seem much more relaxed when we walk, as we are beside each other, same for the teen lovers walking down the street, sit at an angle, you see that all the time in talk shows, there’s a reason for it. 

Step 3: Tape your mouth and unbolt your ears.

Even literally if required. A good way to do this is the talking pillow method. Assign a pillow the powers to talk that it transfers to person its with. Seems silly but incredibly effective. I’d suggest that you genuinely listen to what the other person has to say, even if they are wrong, it’ll let you know how they are wrong and how you can help them to take the right way. So, pass the pillow to them and until they give the pillow back to you, you are dumb as a pot. Take this seriously, don’t talk until he/she hands over the pillow, NOT EVEN A WORD. Don’t even nod in disapproval, that’ll come off as if you are in denial. 

Talking pillow scene Breaking Bad:-

Step 4: Time to talk.

Now that the person has talked for an hour and even let out a few piercing remarks or tears, your turn. Don’t care about the remarks, I mean don’t get back at them, act humble, be the wise woman/man in the situation. Now their are a few things to be taken care of: be careful of how to are going to talk, your tonality, your body language. Are you coming off as a wall or chair? Say, “Your coming late hurts me and makes me anxious”, rather than, “Your coming late is very irresponsible and childish.” If its an arguments on politics and stuff, facts are paramount. The thing is, if your way of stating the facts seem too offensive (in order to find the truth you have to risk being offensive) he/she might leave you hanging. Remember, the goal is the change of mind, not winning. So you have to improvise and act in respect to the person’s state. 

Step 5: Discuss and conclude.

This is a bit paradoxical actually. There is a chance things might take a U-turn and you are back at square one. Don’t worry follow the steps and repeat the cycle till you conclude. It all depends on the weight of the matter. The more lacerated the wound, the more intricate the process to heal it. George Bernard Shaw said it best, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”.

Now that you’ve had a civil conversation in ample amount. Time to take the points one by one, the points you differ on and weigh them on the scale of facts and preferences. As you take your problems one by one, over and over again, days after days, the small details of your life will be strong and well rooted. Relationships will be healthy and your perceptions will be well thought out. Goal is to improve yourself and help others improve. 

“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success” – Paul J. Meyer


People arguing

Why you shouldn’t try to win an argument. #8

There are so many videos on YouTube, teaching ways to win an argument. To say it bluntly, its gnarly to try to do that. Do you remember the debate competitions your school used to organize. Against a class section, girls vs boys, teachers vs students, your school vs the one whom you lost the football match to. At least my school did, and the ‘toppers’ used to join these debate competitions, with a badge made out of cloth, I forgot what they are called. P.T teacher calling them out in the last class for the debate. I was so jealous that they won’t have to fry up their brains in the boring classrooms. And so were all the others. The rivalry was visible and one could only assume the opponents preparation on the topic. You know what’s stupid, at least I used to find it stupid, one group was given the job of defending and one to oppose. It still drives me crazy how some knuckleheads think, that its the best way to teach kids how to speak.

Lets dive a bit deeper. A topic is given to the students, and the roles on the topic have been assigned to the students. One of kids finds that supporting the topic’s idea is better than opposing it, well he is screwed, because it is a debate, the kid has to create a wall of ignorance to the fact. Because if he doesn’t and loses his mind to the opposition on the debate day, he is going to lose and be called a loser. Debates don’t solve anything, nothing. Look at the late night debates, those are a good example. What happens there? No results, just a few people ready to cut throats so that their idea may remain.

Yes, a debate makes people articulate, but the way it does so, especially to learning kids and students, is regressive . It teaches people to use straw-man, witty remarks at the opposing team, even if the person knows he is wrong, he just has to be clever enough to land on a remark so that the audience may clap and shut the opposition. In a debate one has to, yes, has to ensconce on a view and defend it. He/she can’t change, no, why should they, they’ll lose if they do so. So what happens, wrong ideas with clever people win and right ideas with meek representatives lose, scale that up and you’ll get a community full of pervicacious people ready to doom whatever in the support of their ideologies. Because they aren’t taught to change them if they are wrong. No nation solves its international or national conflicts by debating, its always by sitting down and having a discussion, negotiating, compromising, that’s how we humans have survived for this long.

Worse things emerge from this kind of thinking, people now have pushed this norm into personal lives. Couples try to win an argument, why this car is the one to buy, why they should live somewhere else etc. When you win an argument, congratulations, you’ll from then on live with a loser you created. Winning doesn’t mean being right, discussing things makes the progress. Look at the divorce rates, in so many cases, people argue that their partner never listens to them, does what he/she wants. They talk about it, but you know, the other one just wins. This attitude of clasping our ideas with our life and not thinking over the possibility of it being wrong. Not being brave and strong enough to accept that you were wrong. Burying yourself in confirmation bias. Being taught that you have to defend what you think to be true, rather than find the truth will doom us all. Maybe I’m not able to project clearly the idea I want in this blog and will make a couple of follow up blogs, going into the details of how to have an argument, to get results, good results. But right now, I’d want you to stop being a headstrong and rethink your beliefs in certain areas, love, education, sports even, areas which you feel need to be looked into, especially the ones in which you have to coexist with another being.

“Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; an argument an exchange of ignorance. ” – Robert Quillen