Proverbs 26:20-28, 27:6 – Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; They go down to a man’s inmost parts. Like a coating of glaze over earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart. A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. Though his speech is charming, do not believe him, for seven abominations fill his heart. His malice may be concealed by deception, but his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly. If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it; if a man rolls a stone, it will roll back on him. A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. (NIV 1984)
Proverbs 12:15-19 – The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice. (NIV 1984)
Learn to Argue – People generally quarrel because they cannot argue. (G.K. Chesterson)
The Art of “Arguing” – People who are skilled at dialogue have the confidence to say what needs to be said to the person who needs to hear it [not behind their back – “words of a gossip are like choice morsels“], without brutalizing them or causing undue offense [“wounds from a friend can be trusted“]. But this confidence does not equate to arrogance, pigheadedness, threats, accusations or disrespect. They are humble enough to realize that they do not have a monopoly on the truth.
There are five distinct skills that can help us talk [argue] about even the most sensitive topics:
• Share your facts – Facts are the least controversial way to begin a crucial conversation, because facts by their very nature are uncontroversial. Be careful to not “spin” the facts, embellish the facts or omit facts (“the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”). This will derail a crucial conversation before it even gets started. “speak the truth (facts) in love.” Do not rub their nose in it. Facts are the most persuasive and the least insulting. They form a foundation believability, that lays the groundwork for all delicate conversations. But make sure they are facts and not conclusions. That comes next.
• Tell your side of the story – With the facts properly laid out, you can tell your side of the story. The conclusions you have drawn. If you have thought through the facts, your conclusions (story) should be viewed as reasonable, rational, decent and deserving of being considered.
• Ask for others’ views – If done sincerely, this demonstrates humility. Be open to having your mind changed. If your aim is to be “right” and win the “fight” you are not being sincere. If your aim is to determine what is right and walk in the light, you just might find that you were wrong and fighting the wrong battle.
• Talk tentatively – Do not share the facts or tell your story in a dogmatic fashion. One of the ironies of dialogue is that, when talking to those holding opposing positions, the more convinced and forceful you act, the more resistant others become. The more tentatively you speak, the more open people are to your story and conclusions. But you don’t need to be wimpy either. Strike a just right “Goldilocks” balance. Just because you back off on how you state your beliefs, does not mean you have to back off on your beliefs.
• Encourage testing – At this point, you can argue as vigorously as you want for your point of view, provided you are just as vigorous at encouraging others to challenge or even disprove it. Remember, the truth is never afraid of open and honest dialogue. It is okay to have strong opinions and vigorously defend them. Just remember that the other person is entitled to the same. (Crucial Conversations, by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler. McGraw Hill, 2012)
If we S-T-A-T-E things this way, we improve the odds of having a favorable outcome. Even if we do not win or change your mind, we can still agree to disagree and preserve the relationship.
My Musings – If the beliefs we hold are the truth, we want others to believe them too. How we present our case can go a long ways toward convincing the other. Done thoughtfully and caringly, even if we lose the “argument,” we are more likely to at least win respect and preserve the relationship. And that respect, might eventually carry the day. On the other hand, if done thoughtlessly and uncaringly, even if we win the “argument” respect and the relationship may be permanently damaged.
My Advice – Do not merely argue the truth, argue it in a thoughtful and caring way