Monday, May 5, 2014

Dialogue: A Powerful Alternative to Arguing

Think of someone you’ve had disagreements with. Do those interactions ever escalate into a heated argument, where you both get upset and end the conversation frustrated, angry or hurt?

Whether it’s a family member, a friend, a co-worker or your boss, these kinds of encounters can leave you mentally and emotionally drained.

That’s because, in many cases, you’re focused on proving that your opinion is the right one. The stronger and more different your positions, the more you dig your heels in, and the greater the resistance you encounter.

Listening to the other person becomes secondary. You’re busy preparing your next point.

What would happen if you took a different approach?

Dialogue is a powerful alternative to arguing, though it does require concentrated effort and skillful listening.

If the relationship means a lot to you, learning to do this well can prevent your interactions from deteriorating into verbal slug fests.

Before you can engage in dialogue, you must check your attitude. Resolve to keep an open mind so you can really hear what the other person is saying. Acknowledge to yourself that you can learn from hearing his perspective.

It’s hard to do because you've drawn conclusions about most topics and you may genuinely feel your opinion is the right one. You have to get over the discomfort of hearing opinions that don’t match yours or having someone question your position.

With dialogue your goal is not to prove you’re right.

Instead, your goal is to discover what the person thinks and why she thinks that way. You make it safe for her to open up because she’s not afraid you’re going to react negatively or judge.

Once you have your focus on understanding where the person is coming from, you’re ready to begin the conversation.

First, you INQUIRE. 

Once they’ve stated their opinion, you ask questions in a non-threatening way. Explore the assumptions they have, the facts they’re basing their opinion on, and the reasoning they've used to draw the conclusions that they have.

The way you ask these questions is very important. You could put them on the defensive with a question like: “Why do you think that?” 

A better approach: “That is really interesting. I’d like to know more about what caused you to draw that conclusion.”

What you’re trying to do here is LEARN. Find out what’s going on in the other person’s brain.

Next, you ADVOCATE.

This is not the same as pushing for your perspective.

You talk about what’s behind YOUR thoughts, beliefs and opinions. When you can articulate the facts, assumptions and reasoning to someone else, it helps them understand where you’re coming from.

The goal of dialogue is not to try to convince another person or even to be convinced by them. That could be a by-product of the process.

What you’re really trying to do is understand them and have them understand you. After all, that is one of the deepest core needs that every one of us has as a human being…to be understood by someone else.

The dialogue process makes them feel valued, and it causes them to really try to think about the reason behind their opinion or belief without feeling threatened or challenged.

It’s possible to elevate every relationship you have if you’re willing to keep an open mind and respond with genuine respect and interest to what they have to say.

“Understanding a person’s hunger and responding to it is one of the most potent tools you’ll ever discover for getting through to anyone you meet in business or your personal life.” 
– Mark Goulston in Just Listen

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