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Communications – Our success depends on it (Part 2)

Think about it. Considering the diversity of our backgrounds, beliefs, and values, how likely is it that we can agree 100% on anything? Put simply, we are each incomparably unique. Whether the subject is the environment, abortion, what to eat for dinner, what house to buy and where, who to vote for, or whether to go to war, there will almost always be disagreements.

Here’s an example of how easily disagreements can arise.

While discussing relationships and an impending divorce, a divorce attorney might say, “When it’s over it’s over; they should each try to get everything they can.” A marriage counselor says, “Where once there was love, there can be love again. All they need is some marriage counseling.” While someone thrice-divorced emphatically states, “Marriage is a dead institution, they should seek an annulment.”

I contend, therefore, that our worst arguments or more serious communication problems are not so much over the facts, a few misunderstood, poorly chosen, or poorly enunciated words, but are, instead, much more often the by-product of our unique perspectives, our biases, prejudices, axes-to-grind, wishful thinking, all of which lead inevitably to ‘differences of opinion.’

To further complicate the issue, consider that while disagreements divide us, and agreement brings us closer together, even bitter enemies, who may totally disagree, often become allies when they have common enemies. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” 

Understand also, that none of this is to say that agreement is the glue that automatically binds us. After all, no one truly respects a ‘yes-man’ and no one truly admires someone who doesn’t have his or her own opinions. What we really want from others is not so much that they agree with us, but that they have opinions that they believe are tenable and defensible. Many arguments, then, are engaged in, not to pursue immediate agreement, but rather to understand how the other person has come to think or feel the way he or she does. This is called empathy, which allows us to disagree without being disagreeable. Differences of opinion, under these conditions, can even enhance the respect and admiration one person has for another, despite their differences.

The point is, before you get embroiled in a debate based on feelings and opinions, step back and first seek to acknowledge and discuss any documentable, unprejudiced, objective facts that are supported by irrefutable evidence. About this, there’s should be little to fight about. In other words, start by finding things on the subject that you first agree with. Then, share your feelings and opinions. Discuss them with the understanding that when it comes to opinions there are three sides to every story, his, hers & the truth. Accept and clarify your differences, learn from them, always with the goal of seeking to understand your respective truths.

In summary, your opinion does count, but don’t sell it as though it were the equivalent of fact. Stay calm, stay open-minded. The goal as always is ‘win-win.’ Keep in mind also, be open to changing your opinion when confronted with new information that refutes your position. Doing so helps build trust. Finally, keep in mind this quotation. “A man’s opinion changed against his will is of the same opinion still.”

To learn what may be the most important communication rule to help  us all get along, go to my previous campaign entitled “Carl Roger’s Rule.

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