As a youngster, my father would admonish “You’d argue with Paddy’s pig.” He was right. No matter the adversary, or extreme measures needed to prove my case, I would argue. Win at all costs, and the devil take the hindmost.
With time, patience, and tamping down the ego, most of us learn discussion is more productive. Until it becomes an argument.
Merriam Webster defines Argument as an exchange of opposite views, typically an angry one. Discussion as talking about something to reach a decision or exchange ideas.
The argument-discussion conundrum was a recent topic for my friends and me. Most believed arguments are apt to erupt when we use the wrong words. One, a family counselor, suggested we should not openly disagree with what is said. Simply respond ‘I believe you see it that way, but I do not.” Leave it at that. A retired teacher said when she observed student errors she did not say ‘that is wrong’ she said, ‘does that look right to you?’
When a discussion is going awry, for me reversing it depends on the tone and topic. “You’re both sharing interesting thoughts – thank you. Now, what if we stop talking about what IS, and talk about what can BE. Jason, you first.” Not as subtle, but neutral.
Another in the group said her way to change course, is to smilingly say “Well I could agree with you, but then we’d both be wrong.”
What are the odds that instead of turning discussions into arguments, we can learn to turn arguments into discussions? The odds-makers put their money on the age-old solution of time, patience, and a sense of humor.