Two Rules For Passionate Conversation

We all have had a conversation with friends, colleagues, spouses, or new acquaintances that for some reason or another devolved into sometimes a heated disagreement.   Today, people are drawing harder lines around their life views, and as such are often quick to escalate discussions to higher volumes so to protect the walls of their world view.   Winning the point, not conversing, is the goal.  The walls must be protected.   We are losing our ability to passionately listen with intent and with that also losing tremendous opportunities for learning new information or alternate points of view.

In listening to a podcast with Eric Weinstein on the Rubin Report, Dr. Weinstein talked about a wealthy friend who would allow him to “borrow” his island for business or family gatherings.  I need a friend like that if anyone would like to volunteer.   His friend’s only stipulation to using the island was that when everyone settled down and started into the discussions of the day, they must follow these two simple rules.

  1. When someone of some respected intellect is saying something obvious, assume it to be subtle until proven otherwise.    That is resist that urge to dismiss an obvious comment with “Well of course that’s obvious”, assume that in this context the person might mean something deeper and let them flush it out.
  2. When someone of some respected intellect is saying something stupid or wrong (or appears wrong) assume it is merely counter intuitive until proven otherwise 

I can personally think of a number of conversations as a business or project manager, spouse, or friend where these rules would have been useful on both sides of the “discussion”.   The outcomes might have stayed the same, but two important results would have come that were probably missed in those particular instances.

First, both people would know they were heard.   So often frustration arises simply when one or two parties feel they are not heard.   Their words were not listened to and understood.   So if the steam level is not completely boiling over, take the time to flush them out and understand.    Listen with intent.  If you don’t understand the viewpoint, ask for clarification.   Take the extra minute to understand.    If a person has thought through what they are saying or thinking, they usually will have deeper explanations of their point of view.

Second, in actively listening, there is always a pretty good chance you will gain some insight or perspective that you simply had never considered.    Everyone approaches life from a different angle, sometimes that different perspective can open up new opportunities to see things from that different angle, possibly providing new avenues of exploration and learning.

Some arguments are simply blowing off steam and are rooted in irrationality.     These lofty rules might not be an option where the conversation has gone completely off the rails.    Even with those hot zone arguments, there is a caveat, the root of that passion is usually based in something else, taking the time to understand that might, once again, provide a new perspective on a situation that you simple were not aware of.

Good talking with you!