The Other Side of the Table

Have you ever wondered why two people tend to have different point of view? Have you ever listened to people argue on something “stupid” and yet they are so vehement on their positions? A wise person once said, “Walk a mile in my shoes, see what I see, hear what I hear, feel what I feel, THEN maybe you’ll understand why I do what I do; ‘till then don’t judge me”.

I think one of the major challenges we have is that we overestimate what we know and what we can do. Somehow, we believe that our way is the only way and our views are the only reasonable ones. That is okay in as much as we don’t feel compelled to impose it on others, which unfortunately a lot of us do.

I love the quote above because it is not absolute. Did you notice the word “maybe”? The author says the fact that you walk in my shoes, see through my eyes and hear through my ears doesn’t guarantee that you will understand me. That is because those actions are nothing but actions. What makes the difference is not the action but the attitude. What you look at is not as important as how you look at it.

Dale Carnegie says you can’t win an argument because when you lose you lose and when you win you lose; what is the gain of winning and feeling self-important while you lose your partner? According to Dale, when you convince someone against his will, not only will he remain of the same opinion still, he will seek an opportunity to get even. That is because his pride has been hurt. Think about it, what is more important to you- to win an argument or to achieve your purpose? It is easier to resolve conflicts when you focus on the issues rather than on persons. An American quote reads, “The more arguments you win, the less friends you will have”.  Another valuable quote reads, “Discussions are always better than arguments because an argument is to find out who is right, and a discussion is to find out what is right”. When you respect other people’s perspectives, you leave room for agreement to be reached. Here are a few challenges of not being willing to entertain the opinion of others:

  1. Ego sets in: when you focus entirely on your own position and you oppose the perspective of others, you engage your emotions. When you get emotional about the argument, and you start to make authoritative and categorical claims, you will stake too much of your reputation and integrity that you cannot afford to lose. It becomes entirely about you and what you want.
  2. Willful errors: the emotion and desire to win drives you to the point of no-return. The situation becomes so complex that if by any chance you discover that you were wrong all along, it becomes difficult for you to admit because you have said too much. To save face, you will maintain your stand and keep arguing the wrong position.
  3. Missed opportunities to learn: the beautiful thing about diversity is the variety of ideas. You may join a discussion with a certain notion and come out of it with an entirely new idea. Openness to other views apart from yours is what enriches a conversation. When you speak, you express what you know but when you listen, you learn what others know.