Recently, driving in the car and flipping through radio stations on my way to a super cool training gig (It absolutely was not to McDonald’s for an apple pie), I happen to hear a short snippet of a conversation. In it, someone was telling someone else how not to argue. I missed the rest of the conversation but that one moment has stayed with me.
Is there a way to argue well? Can we “fight” profitably, meaning, can we get heated and still be respectful and ultimately affect change?
The answer is yes, and…here’s what you need to keep in mind to argue well:
1. No name calling. No matter what an ass, jerk, bitch or schmuck someone might be, it does absolutely no good to say it out loud in the heat of the moment. This is an absolute.
2. Don’t speak in absolutes. Omit the words “never,” “always” and “only” from your fight vocabulary.
3. Breathe & pause. These are the two most important things you will ever do in an interaction with another person. Breathe and pause. Do it frequently. Your life may depend on it.
4. Be respectful of yourself. No matter how hard it is. No matter how horrible, disagreeable, inane or just plain stupid the person you’re fighting with might be, go high. In our age of extreme divisiveness and social media rampages, be the better person and respect yourself, if not them.
A final caveat: This list is by no means exhaustive. Living in a world with other people is practically impossible. We can, each of us, find, with a breath & a pause, the tiniest path to come together. We can grow our conversations and create ways to make even our arguments a flashpoint for beneficial change.
LB Adams is the Founder of Practical Dramatics headquartered in Charleston, SC. Her company provides fun & interactive training events utilizing theatre strategies to help humans grow more profitable conversations with other humans.