I have been spending a lot of time thinking about arguing and how we challenge one another. Challenging ideas is essential, especially in the context of education, but how we challenge others is as important as what we are challenging in the first place if we want to push thinking.
Here are three things to think about when pushing the thinking of someone else:
Assume positive intent in the other person.
No one shows up to work wanting to do a lousy job. This doesn’t mean they won’t say or do things that don’t bother you, but when we assume positive intent, it places our focus on the idea, not the person.Here’s the thing though…their intent might not be positive, but if you keep your focus on that, people will see from the outside who is challenging for the right reasons. This leads me to point two.
Remember that the way you deliver your message is almost as meaningful as the message itself.
I remember watching a debate and seeing a person start off by immediately making an assumption about the other person, attacking their character, and THEN trying to persuade them of their point. Not only were they assuring the person they were debating with would not change their mind, but it also lost a lot of people in the conversation as well.There are some brilliant people out there who lose their message in the messaging. Being respectful is not always about the person you are talking to, but modeling it for the people who are watching. Focus on the ideas, not the person. Otherwise, the ideas might be lost in the delivery to the people who need to hear it the most.
Find where you agree and build from there.
You believe in “Idea A,” and they believe in “Idea C.” But do you both agree on “Idea B,” and if you do, could finding that commonality bring them closer to “Idea A”? Or vice-versa?I read somewhere once (paraphrased) that an “argument” has a winner and a loser, but a discussion is about finding the best ideas. If you are looking to “win” an argument, you may have already lost.
Often, I write these posts as no more than reminders for myself. These tips are something that I have found useful in conversations both online and offline and especially when we know others are watching. Many people say nothing at the moment while observing these conversations, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t being convinced of something at the same time. How we challenge is often just as important as what we challenge
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