What Are We Fighting For? Part 2: We can disagree intelligently without insulting someone.
Welcome to Part 2 of our 12 part blog series called, “What Are We Fighting For?”
At home, in our communities and organizations, and cross-culturally, we’ve got to learn how to fight FOR each other instead of against each other. It’s a good thing to have people in our lives who challenge our thinking and allow ourselves to keep learning from people whose experiences are different than our own. When we live in an echo chamber that keeps us from really engaging with new perspectives, we miss the chance to deepen and grow intellectually, spiritually and emotionally. To make the world better, we’ve each got to do better engaging and disagreeing respectfully.
We can disagree intelligently without insulting another person. And we must.
There is not a limit to the amount of intellect in the world. Smart, informed people can come to very different conclusions about a lot of things. In fact, they do. Every. Single. Day. So there’s no need to pretend that if you’ve reached what you believe to be an intelligent conclusion, that someone who disagrees with you isn’t intelligent.
Insults and accusations never improve an argument. They only escalate it. Yet insulting language is part of conversations we see and hear every day. We have no idea how much this negativity inhibits the power of love we so need in our everyday lives!
Most of us have an internal “argument template” we automatically default to when we lock horns with someone or feel challenged in a disagreement. Some people shut down and stop talking, others get louder and start reeling out of control, some resort to blame, name-calling or even gaslighting. If you automatically go to unhelpful places during a disagreement, it’s important to find a new template. The moment things escalate or shout down, everyone walks away a loser and no one is even listening anymore.
We have very few role models to show us how to fight FOR each other, sadly, but I do think of Martin Luther King, Jr., as one of the greatest examples in history who was FOR all of mankind. He wanted no ill will toward anyone. He didn’t insult people, he didn’t make his speeches about himself or whether or not he was being validated, but instead he focused on the consistent message that supported a fair and safe world for EVERYONE. He courageously told the truth of his experiences. and articulately shared his vision for a new way of looking at racism. He inspired instead of insulting, and he spoke truths rather than attacking people.
I so wish he had received the respect he deserved for his dedicated pursuit of a fair and loving world. Imagine how differently things would’ve played out if those who were threatened by his message had, instead, been open to listening empathetically. Imagine if we could now create an atmosphere
The experience of being able to calmly articulate what we believe, while allowing someone else to do the same, is an empowering experience that provides the opportunity to create understanding, maybe even empathy, without anyone feeling unsafe. Even if agreement never happens, understanding can. THAT is how to develop the kind of rapport that helps humanity build a greater foundation of mutual understanding. The more we can understand about one another, the less likely we are to foster hate and inflict pain on each other.
Being smart and informed isn’t enough to create mutually beneficial conversations. You need emotional intelligence to listen intuitively, and respect someone else’s beliefs with civility. Because they’re human. There doesn’t need to be any other reason.
So let’s get specific. Let’s swap out unhelpful discussion habits with new, constructive ones. Here are some ideas we’ve found helpful:
Really think through how to best communicate your thoughts, and ask yourself why you feel the need to do so. What is it you’re hoping to accomplish? This is especially true when it comes to social media.
Ask questions and invite feedback, only if you’re really ready to listen without judgment.
Listen without defensiveness. You do not have to own or understand someone else’s story, so let them tell it without weighing in. Thank them for sharing and only respond with your thoughts if they ask.
Avoid referring to your fellow humans as morons, idiots, or anything suggesting that you know more than they do (even if you really believe you do).
Understand that you do not have to share every thought and feeling you have the moment you have it. Give yourself a minute. “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.”
An apology is good, and necessary sometimes. Not needing to apologize in the first place is better. You don’t get to take back your words back once they’re said.
Communicate authentically and kindly…AT THE SAME TIME.