Nobody likes to be told they are wrong. We all believe, in our hearts of hearts, that we are right, no matter how logically misguided we may be. So why do we so often voice an objection to something our partner, friend or co-worker says with an immediate: “You’re wrong!” Often followed up by, “So wrong.” And then wonder why they turn away in disgust or dismay, or launch into defensive mode that quickly degenerates into an argument.
But what if, rather than assume they are wrong, because they said something you disagree with or just don’t like, what if you took a pause, a beat, and considered what might be right about what they just said? An appalling thought, yes I know, but one that can lead to constructive communication rather than destructive name-calling and whatever else.
For example, to say, in a neutral, non-defensive, non-sarcastic tone: “Huh. You make a good point there. I hadn’t thought about it that way. Tell me more.” “Tell me more” has to be one of the most powerful anti-argument devices ever. You’re not fighting. You’re seeking clarification. Understanding. And if we all resent being told we are wrong, we all appreciate those who seek to understand us.
To be able to summon up the courage to say “good point” and follow it up with “tell me more,” is truly drawing on your inner hero/heroine. Because it takes guts, real guts, to be willing to listen to a point of view other than your own. Not that you have to adopt that view, but when you invite clarification and genuinely seek understanding, chances are good that you will find some basis for agreement, or at the very least, cooperation.
Which is a lot more productive, and in the end, more fun, than a blatant “You’re wrong!”