Too often when people argue, they are quick to judge, blame, or shut the other out. In short, two individuals quickly become opponents as each vies for the winning argument or the last word. You have probably had enough of your own arguments with others to know that arguments usually get the parties involved absolutely nowhere.
I want to give you one tool to use when you find yourself in an argument with anyone, including stranger, co-worker, friend, or romantic partner. The tool is simple: seek to understand before you disagree. Though this tool may sound simple or even self-explanatory, the truth is that most people don’t use this tool when they find themselves in a spat with another individual.
Instead of approaching your fellow arguer with the intent to win or to show him that your way is right or more logical, take 60 seconds and try to understand why he sees things the way he does. Remember that listening and trying to understand his perspective doesn’t mean that he wins and you lose – it simply means that you are showing him that you have enough respect to listen and to try to see it his way. Again, 60 seconds! It’s not lifetime, just a single minute.
Once you take 60 seconds to listen, you will usually find that your former opponent relaxes a little and will, in turn, be more willing to listen to your perspective. The reality about most arguments is that they rarely produce a productive result. Instead, they merely offer the individuals an outlet to vent their pent-up feelings.
The next time you have an argument with anyone, seek to understand before you disagree. Simple tool? Yes. Yet in all of the clinical work that I do, I find that it is the simplest tools that make the greatest difference.