Every time we enter into a conversion there is an underlying opportunity to grow in your understanding. This is especially true when talking with someone of an opposite or contrary view (insert political party allegiance here). These are the conversations that I find most interesting and ones that offer the best opportunity for growth. It all comes down to positioning yourself within the conversation.
I can picture it now, the left vs right, Mac vs PC, people who wear socks and sandals vs the rest of us normal people, all coming together loaded up ready to open fire with our opinions and thoughts of how we are right and THEY are wrong. Unfortunately, the outcome of this type of approach is always a mess. People limping off the battleground called “debate” wounded and rejected while the victors wrap themselves in their blankets of confirmation bias and pride. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for a good ol’ fashioned debate but all too often we put the gloves on when all we needed was to stop and listen.
The point of the conversation isn’t about convincing the other person they are wrong and you are right, that is just a twitter battle waiting to happen. Instead, I see it as an opportunity to understand who they are and where they are coming from. Why do they think the way they do? From this standpoint, I can grow in my own understanding of my views and them as a person as well as create a positive framework for the conversation at hand. By simply giving the other person the opportunity to be heard, it shows they are valued, an ingredient so effective in creating those deeper connected relationships.
I learnt this lesson years ago from a wise man. He said “seek to understand, not be understood” or another way of phrasing it is “we have two ears and one mouth”. As I’ve practiced modelling this in my own life I have come to build friendships especially with those who have the complete opposite worldviews as mine. At the end of the day, it’s not about me getting my point across, it’s about learning to understand each other and growing from there. Deeper relationships are formed when we communicate value to one another, we give space and set aside our hidden motives. No one cares really if you use a Mac or a PC.
Hey, hey I’m over here!
The point to all of this is growth comes through relationships and relationships grow through understanding one another. Let me share a personal example. My wife loves intentional one on one time. To me, this would look like watching the Tour de France together or going for a bike ride but for her, that’s the farthest thing from it. She likes to intentionally put the phone away, light some candles and give her all my attention type of conversations. Hi, my name is Jamie and I’m a phoneaholic. Yes, I’m still in training and I get distracted but what I’ve come to realize is this is what shows her value and therefore it’s very important to her. Now during the early years of our marriage, I would argue that spending time together can look like how I see it but after many unsuccessful and frankly hurtful arguments, it got through my thick head that I need to understand where she is coming from. Just because something might seem trivial to me, to her it showed a lack of value.
I wonder how many difficult situations we have faced globally that could have been avoided if we simply came at the problem with this mindset of seeking to understand one another? Tell me, Spice Girls, what do you really want?
So, next time you have a conversation with someone who wears socks with sandals try this approach and see how it goes. You never know, you may just understand why they are the way they are.