Resolving conflict, ending arguments, and finding better ways to communicate shouldn’t be that difficult. Anyone who has struggled to get their point across or who ended up flabbergasted, at ones wits end and completely raged after a verbal battle knows that it ain’t easy. Everyone can make sense and prove why they are “right” during a verbal battle, which is the reason why they often end with anger. There can be no victor in the quest to be right because all you have is two sides who are right.
The cause of such difficulties has very little to do with what does or does not make sense and more to do with where we look for the problem. When an individual gets angry with someone else and voices there displeasure with what was done to them, they just caused the conflict. They think that what caused the conflict is what was done to them, but it is their angry reaction that is the source of the misunderstanding. Let me explain.
Socratic Dialogue Versus Narcissism
What I am hoping to do is encourage individuals to come from a place of power instead of force during their communicative exchanges. The bottom line is that it really doesn’t matter who is right or who is wrong when the goal is harmony. When the intended purpose of all exchanges is harmony and mutual respect, then all energies are put towards understanding opposing points of view. When an apposing point of view is understood, then the two parties can begin to negotiate on how to meet each other half way. It is in this way that peace can be achieved; peace between individuals, partners, business associates, countries, apposing religions, etc. The overly critical mind or elitist and self-rightious perspective needs to make others wrong or bad. Those with little faith or conviction in their beliefs act in this negative and debilitating way. Without realizing it, they need to validate their truth by making someone else wrong. When this happens, their faith and ideas are dependent on outside forces and the only way they can feel secure is by making themselves better than others. This attitude in its extreme is best described as Narcissism, which is a personality disorder where an individual needs to be “grander” than everyone else by making everyone else “less than.” The reality of course is that these individuals are extremely insecure and may even reach a state of self-loathing. Without the strength to deal with these feelings, they simply play a mind game with themselves by falsely making themselves superior to others. Even the ability to make themselves equal to another is very difficult. This disorder is linked to effective communication in that rather than seeking mutual understanding they communicate, they choose to be overly critical, negative and shaming of others.
Those with true conviction, passion and faith in their beliefs allow others to hold apposing views as well. The Socratic Dialogue discusses what it means to strive for truth. The Socratic Model of dialogue mirrors this attempt at increasing consciousness, objectivity, and openness to a discussion. Socratic dialogue is best used when individuals clearly disagree and when they hold strongly to their positions. The participants have freely chosen to participate, and choose to do so as friends in search of the truth by following the Logos or principle standard. Great emphasis is placed on not steering too far off the topic at hand to prevent confusion and clouded perceptions. Their search for truth means that they trust its existence and great pains are taken to reveal all questions and concerns, while putting aside those that are not supported by clarity and facts. Friendship is the most important thing of all. “In a friendly dialogue, it is of no concern who is right or wrong. Dialogue demands the spirit of friendship because dialogue requires a relationship or spirit of care, trust, understanding, and fairness. To the degree that co-workers share a common goal they must work in unity, and that unity of purpose, in the Greek sense, is a kind of friendship” (Apatow, 1999). Finally, when people dialogue, they must follow the words spoken because the word is a direct expression of the speaker’s mind. Great care must be taken here, as each word represents a certain reality when spoken, and without care false truths and realities become manifest. Individuals need to take complete ownership of what they say without false excuses, defensive responses or “passing the buck.” Until this ownership of consciousness occurs within individuals, people will continually butt heads with each other. If folks don’t learn to own their consciousness, they are like puppets being bounced about by their puppeteer. In this scenario, an individual’s consciousness acts like a puppeteer until it is controlled. They become victims to whatever random thought that pops into their heads, or by whatever feelings they have, and will continually say things that they don’t really mean. Mass consciousness of fear, doubt, begrudgement, entitlement, and opposition within individuals has resulted in our current state of affairs regarding effective dialogue. Attempts at owning and expressing more positive and optimistic thoughts could help create a more unified interpersonal setting. Judgments that words like appreciation, faith, hope, and love – especially love – are too “touchy-feely.” However, such judgment obviously comes from their internal fear, and until each individual decides to challenge these negative functions or negative thoughts, there is little hope of creating the unity that is so desperately needed.
1. If you find yourself really angry angry at someone or in extreme frustration about something they said or did to you it is because YOU have not yet accepted that behavior in yourself.
2. Never begin sentences with “You shouldn’t have done or you should do.” because your opinion on what they should have done is irrelevant. ASK them if they are willing to try a different behavior.
3. Asking them to try something doesn’t mean they will do it, so ask without expecting them to comply. If you ask and get angry because you didn’t get the answer you wanted, then you didn’t ask but demanded and were acting in a passive aggressive way.
4. Remember that the goal is to negotiate towards mutual understanding and VARIATIONS of what you want to get out of situations. That means giving up some of what you wish.
5. For EVERY situation where an injustice happened to you, you were at least 50% responsible for the problem. Example: If someone hits you, then you are partially responsible for that act.
5. Good and bad or right and wrong are illusions. It is far better to strive to create value or focus on what choices work or are effective in getting you what you want in a given situation.
6. What worked in one situation may not work when the same situation occurs again. This is what makes human interaction so challenging and interesting. We have to keep trying until it sinks in.
7. When an argument begins, do your best to express what you did to influence the problem first and then express what you didn’t like about the other person. Do this with sincerity and honesty.
8. What you don’t like about what another person is or does doesn’t mean that they were wrong, but that you just don’t like it. Which doesn’t mean that they should change, but that you might want to consider accepting that part of them.
9. Each of us is ALWAYS right. And two contradicting “rights” can exist at the same time. Example: your boyfriend might laugh too loud and passionately hate that type of laughter.
10. It is more difficult to get another person to change than it is for you to let them be who and what they choose and practice acceptance.
“In fact, our brains are malleable, ever changing, reconfiguring their wiring according to new thoughts and experiences. And as a result of learning, the function of individual neurons themselves change, allowing electrical signals to travel along them more readily. Scientists call the brain’s inherent capacity to change ‘plasticity.’ This ability to change the brain’s wiring, to grow new neural connections, has been demonstrated in experiments such as one conducted by Doctors Avi Karni and Leslie Underleider at the National institute of mental health. In that experiment, the researchers had subjects perform a simple motor task, a finger-tapping exercise, and identified the parts of the brain involved in the task by a MRI brain scan. The subjects then practiced the finger exercise daily for four weeks, gradually becoming more efficient and quicker at it. At the end of the four-week period, the brain scan was repeated and showed that the area of the brain involved in the task had expanded; this indicated that the regular practice and repetition of the task had recruited new nerve cells and changed the neural connections that had originally been involved in the task.” (Dalai Lama and Cutler, pg. 44).
Apatow, Robert. “Socratic Dialogue.” Executive Review 16.5 (1999): 2pp. Online. Internet.
The Dalai Lama and C. Cutler. “The Art of Happiness.” New York: Penguin Putman, Inc., 1998.