Being a part of any relationship for a period of time affords an individual the opportunity to learn what works and what doesn’t with each respective person. I may be able to discuss politics with Uncle Joe but Aunt Sue? Never! He’s open minded to other people’s views and enjoys a lively debate. Aunt Sue, on the other hand, is opinionated, is a right-fighter (one who always has to be right as Dr. Phil refers to them), and becomes nasty with those who disagree with her. I can joke around with my husband and refer to him as my “hairless honey” but my friend Steve is very sensitive about his lack of locks.
One of my favorite topics to discuss is God. I’m madly in love with Him and like a teenage who’s fallen in love for the first time, I can’t stop thinking and talking about Him. But try to have a discussion about our Lord with a defensive non believer and you may be in for a rough ride. (I learned that lesson the hard way on facebook – some of them can get down-right ugly!)
We all know what topics we can discuss with certain people and which ones to avoid. We also know what turns a harmless discussion into a vicious argument. (A disagreement is not synonymous with argument by the way. The first is simply a difference of opinion. The latter engenders hostility and sometimes aggression.) Granted, there are those who love the drama – they seek out opportunities to incite a good fight. I’m not one of them. While I enjoy a good debate, I abhor arguing and will do my best to avoid it. Then, too, there are some who engage in a discussion and wonder why every conversation results in quarreling and hurt feelings. “People are so sensitive! Everything you say they take the wrong way.” They fail to recognize their own contributions to the contamination of the dialogue.
Here are some surefire tips to convert any conversation into an argument:
• Know what issues the other party is sensitive to or passionate about. Engage one of those topics for discussion.
• Know what to say or do to provoke them, being certain to push their buttons whenever possible.
• Infuse a hefty dose of criticism, sarcasm, and insults. Insert a few expletives and round it off with a threat or two for good measure.
• Always be right. Never admit to being mistaken about anything.
• Be as arrogant and close minded as possible. Never listen to or consider the other person’s position.
• Exaggerate and embellish whenever possible. This will certainly destroy your credibility.
If you would prefer to keep things civil, try the following:
• Refuse to engage in highly sensitive or provoking topics. Don’t initiate or participate in them regardless of how much the other party persists.
• Stay out of other people’s business. If it does not concern you do not be concerned.
• If necessary, walk away before the conversation turns nasty.
• Remain open and respectful of the other person’s position. Acknowledge their feelings, beliefs, and needs even if you don’t understand or agree with them.
• Be sensitive and kind but firm when necessary. When speaking, be crystal clear and judiciously concise.
• Carefully choose your words, tone of voice, and attitude. Always consider how they would sound to you if the other party said them.
• If the situation becomes heated, know what to say or do to calm things down. A simple validation is often enough. “I can see how important this issue is to you.”
• Don’t take personal offense to what the other party is saying. Their behavior mirrors their inner self and is in no way a reflection of you.
Discussions are a vital aspect of every healthy relationship and enable individuals to acquire greater knowledge of one another, the issue at hand, to find resolution whenever necessary. They also serve as a means to strengthen the rapport between all parties. With a few simple techniques and a bit of restraint, anyone can keep a dialogue civil and productive.
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