Are you elevating the conversation?

The modern world is filled with a bunch of people dead-set on arguing, but no idea how to accomplish anything while doing it. It seems the whole “communicating” part of two people conversing over differing opinions has been lost to the wind.

Sometimes we’re right and we know it. Sometimes we’re wrong and we don’t know it. Sometimes we’re just stubborn, and sometimes we’re more concerned with winning than we are reflecting or listening. It’s a complicated business; adding the internet to the mix poured gasoline on a fire that was already burning pretty bright.

One central problem is that many people are locked in on the argument at hand. How can they support abortion? Don’t they know it’s killing literal children? Or, how can they restrict the rights of women like that? In the name of what, a fetus that isn’t even a person yet? Abortion is a sensitive topic, as it should be, and even bringing it up may have caused you to forget what I was talking about and hone in on the argument itself, listing out points as to why a fetus is, in fact, a human being, or conversely, why it’s not.

But that’s not my point.

My point is that we’re more concerned with what we’re arguing rather than how we’re arguing. But if we’re not arguing in a way that effectively and honestly communicates to the other person, what’s the point of speaking to them at all?

It’s like we’ve got a truckful of bananas, hoping to carry our fruit to a starving group of people. They need the delicious yellow goods, whether they know it or not, and you’ve got to bring it to them. And yet we’re so focused on their need and our possession of the bananas, that we’ve forgotten that our truck doesn’t have any wheels. We sit in our truck and slam on the accelerator, making a racket as we grip the wheel and wonder why we’re not making any progress.

The first priority should be on fixing the truck; it should be on fixing our ability to converse effectively.

The question I often ask myself, no matter whether I’m talking to someone who is a great open-minded listener or someone who is stubborn and stuck in their ways: how am I elevating this conversation?

Whether it’s at home with a relative, in the office with a coworker, or on the internet with a stranger – how am I elevating the conversation?

The times when I do ask myself this, I wind up listening a whole lot more, asking more questions, and making more pointed yet respectful responses. I find myself speaking less about things I really don’t know much about, especially if my experience in the subject is only rooted in a book or two on the subject, or even worse — a couple articles.

First thing’s first: get your truck working. Make sure the debating mechanism between you and the other is working correctly, at least on your end. You can’t force anyone else to act with poise, respect, and a strong foundation for an argument – but you can take care of your half.

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2 years ago

My Mama told me you catch more flies with honey rather than vinegar. So I try to be sweet and nice. Active listening, not interrupting, and not arguing just for the sake of arguing, may be difficult at times. But it has served me well. We just have to realize life is not a zero sum game. Compromise is hard sometimes, but every little detail of our daily lives doesn’t involve winners vs. losers.

2 years ago
Reply to  Luke Ryan

Your goal is truth. My goal is usually to have a nice conversation and sometimes a debate about the issues. But I believe many folks now are unbending, limited in their beliefs and becoming more separated. The political parties are moving farther apart and the far right and far left are moving further in opposite directions You are very right in saying people are becoming one issue voters. In all aspects of our lives. There are certainly a lot of triggers out there. Anti-this versus pro-that. Truthfully, many just act like a bunch of third graders. And believe it’s OK… Read more »

2 years ago

The moment personal attacks or slurs come out I shut down . Be civil in all things . Even when I have to be the bad guy and the interrogator I am civil and polite. I do believe the way people are on the web should be they way they behave in public , I know that won’t happen but one can hope .
I enjoy discussions with you Luke , especially being on the opposite side, I learn a lot

2 years ago
Reply to  clluelo

CL-In your position you are subject to some criticism and I’m guessing you maintain your cool when necessary. You may be pissed off internally. But you do your job professionally. People under the anonymous veil of the web will be as outrageous as heck, but pansies in person. My comment about my Mom above was countered by my Dad. One of his favorite sayings was “ Sometimes a fist to the nose is worth a thousand words.” I’ve been there when necessary, but have leaned towards my Mom’s philosophy as my default attitude.

Susan B
2 years ago

You’re right! I try to follow the things you bring out in this article. There are times when I feel like I’m on a mission rather than carrying on a discussion. That’s about the time I realize that someone took me wrong because of a poor argument or I offended them, or I spoke from limited knowledge and showed my butt. In every case I tried to offer a sincere apology and undue the damage. The gracious have accepted my sincerely meant apology. Others…well…one can’t win them all. 🙂

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