Tough Conversations

I’ve been in some tough conversations recently.

I’ve had opportunities to learn, or re-learn, or un-learn. Opportunities to examine my beliefs and either re-think or hold myself accountable. I’ve also had opportunities to engage in arguments.

Maybe you’ve had similar encounters. And maybe, like me, you’ve wondered why these discussions so frequently devolve into verbal quarrels. And perhaps — you’ve wondered how to avoid this sort of pointless squabbling.

The “why” is simple.

Listening and learning are hard. When our core beliefs are questioned, when we’re confronted with uncomfortable new information or perspectives, we want to defend. So we don the armor, build the walls, and marshal the arguments to fortify our position. And the battle’s on — us on one side, them on the other, each seeking to reinforce their position while attacking the other side. Which encourages them to return fire.

Eventually the defenses become so hardened that penetration is nearly impossible. Each side sits safely behind its wall in an endless feedback loop, more and more convinced they’re right and the others are wrong.

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“How to avoid” is also simple.

Take down the armor. Stop trying to defend. Admit that you might not know everything, and that some of what you *know* might be wrong.

Of course, simple doesn’t mean easy. Listening and learning are hard. We might hear things we don’t like, even things that hurt. We might have to question ideas we’ve never questioned and be called to hold ourselves accountable in ways we never imagined.

Ultimately, we may need to change our behavior. And that’s hard.

I’m competitive. I want to win. I enjoy a spirited debate about solutions, once everyone agrees on the underlying facts. I’m also confident enough in my fundamental beliefs that I don’t need to defend them.

But this current environment has clarified for me the folly of trying to win arguments. I’m trying to listen, to learn and un-learn where it’s necessary.

I want to seek to know what’s right, and to hold myself accountable for acting in that direction.

I am not here to be right.
I am here to get it right. — Brené Brown


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