Friendly Negotiation How To

Do you feel like you’re in the world where everybody is just angry with each other?

How do you cope with a situation where you don’t agree with the other person?

You may not agree with their politics, their way of life, and you may have no intention of going over to the other side. The answer to most “aggressive conversations” is simpler than you would expect. And it’s also a lot more fun and you get to stay friends.

Let’s find out how.
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When I was a kid, I adored guns. As an adult, less so.

As a child, I had not one, but two plastic guns. You may not know this, but they’re enormously useful when you have to play cops and robbers. Just pointing your fingers and making loud noises, isn’t as much fun. I had one of those Colt Revolvers and also a Luger and I was much admired by my friends.

But then, I grew up.

No adults around me owned guns, either in India, where I grew up—or in New Zealand where I finally moved. The only place I ever saw guns were in the movies and on the news. It wasn’t good news either. Hence, you could safely say I didn’t care very much for guns.

Then on holiday in Florence, Italy, I met with gun dealer. The last thing you want to do on holiday is get into a debate, let alone an argument. But Jeremy was having none of that.

Over breakfast, he brought up many topics, most of which we agreed upon or had a different opinion about. However, the “gun thing “wasn’t something we agreed upon.

As you can tell, Jeremy loved his guns, and it made sense because he was a gun dealer. However, we didn’t argue when he discovered I was not exactly on his side of the fence.

You would’ve thought the discussion would’ve gone badly, but that’s only when you aren’t willing to consider the other side. Instead of arguing or having some sort of position, we became friends on Facebook. And it’s not because the discussion was entirely cordial.

Here’s how it went:

Jeremy: Do you like guns?
Sean: I did when I was a kid.
Jeremy: Do you like them now?
Sean: No, I don’t. I don’t see the need for them. And anyway, there’s no telling what I’d do if I had a gun.

I went on to tell him about how I got distraught one day while playing cricket. I owned the bat and the stumps (Stumps are part of the game and look like sticks).

One day, while I was playing, some of my friends decided to taunt me from the side. This taunting session went on for a while until I lost my head. With a swipe of the bat, I broke the stumps and stormed home. The game was over, but I didn’t care.

“I would not sell you a gun”, said Jeremy solemnly

“You have a terrible temper, “he said to me,” and you would not be able to buy a gun from me.”

We talked a bit more, and I explained that he didn’t need to because I had no interest in guns. Anyway, the communities I lived in didn’t have guns, so it seemed largely pointless to me to even consider owning one.

At this point, Jeremy’s wife and Renuka showed up as well. Realising that we were both on opposite sides of the fence, they were slightly unsure of what to expect. However, nothing happened. We spoke about other things as well, and when we left, Jeremy and I connected on Facebook.

Then came an attack on worshippers at a mosque in Christchurch

In less than thirty days, New Zealand politicians passed the Amendment Act 2019. This law banned most semi-automatic firearms, assault rifles, and high-capacity magazines in New Zealand.

The government also established a buyback scheme to compensate owners of newly prohibited firearms. Additionally, the law tightened the requirements for obtaining a firearms license and increased penalties for firearms offences.

Jeremy was back on Facebook Messenger.

He told me how New Zealand would end up in complete chaos. He explained his position and said things would go wrong because citizens could not defend themselves if the government went rogue.

Once again, there was lots of scope to disagree with him or even ban him as a Facebook friend. However, yet again, we had a discussion, and not surprisingly, Jeremy is still a friend.

How’s that even possible? How can you disagree with someone and still be friends? Or worse still, what if you have a friend who completely changes their life position? Are you supposed to just dump the friend overnight?

We were on holiday – yes, yet again – when I ran into quite another person we disagreed with.

This time, however, the discussion wasn’t quite as volatile. Nonetheless, it was just as frustrating. We had been talking to a woman who shared a common cultural background with us.

She ate similar food and was brought up in a similar household. However, the discussion turned to astrology at some point in the evening. She had decided that the planets ruled our lives, and it was logical to learn more about astrology in great detail.

She then went on to tell us how Saturn would affect us or how Jupiter would change the coming week. At this point, both of us were in a rather uncomfortable situation. We disagreed with what she was saying, and to us, at least, astrology is as helpful as a horoscope.

However, the way to handle a situation like this is not necessarily to have a discussion.

The problem with discussions is that people are firmly entrenched in their positions. Whether they believe in astrology or a specific type of religion or politics, they have already concluded and aren’t going to shift from that position.

However, because she was a friend and we’ve known her for a very long time, we merely tolerated her point of view. It was a struggle because she went on for at least 15 or 20 minutes. And when you don’t agree with something, even five minutes is an arduous amount of time.

Later, I realised I had missed my opportunity to ask her some questions.

  • What had caused her to move over to astrology?
  • How did she find astrology driving the events in her life?
  • How did it help her clients?

There were so many questions that I could’ve asked her, but because I was keen to move the conversation along, I just didn’t say anything. I listened for as long as possible and then changed the topic.

However, later on, I didn’t feel good about that conversation. And that’s because I didn’t do what I did with Jeremy. With Jeremy, I went over to his side of the fence.

I talked about my “anger issues “on that particular day, and so he started to relate to me differently. With the astrology friend, I nearly listened and did not say anything or ask any questions.

In my opinion, the best way to have a conversation is to ask questions.

When someone has a different point of view, it’s more than clear that they will not change their position. Hence, we must somehow slip into the middle of that Venn diagram.

When we ask questions, we get a better feeling for their thoughts. You may disagree with them, but asking questions moves you closer to the other person.

At this stage, it’s also important to note that you might agree with almost everything the other person says but have a problem with a single point. Why is it so important that we win that argument?

Why not just ask questions instead?

The more questions we ask, the more the other person feels we are interested in what they say. But at the same time, we understand the other person’s point of view, and the entire amount of time is spent in a more agreeable manner.

The biggest reason why we get into so many arguments is because we have fixed positions.

The reality is that most of us have more commonalities than differences. If you run into a person on the street – and this is a random stranger – you will find that they also enjoy different types of food, travel, have certain hobbies, may enjoy sports, etc.

They may not share your politics or be into astrology, but that’s just one thing you don’t agree upon. Why is it so critical to score points on that one thing?Just asking questions is such a civilised way to understand the other person and create less chaos in the already chaotic world.

Asking questions helps when you are entirely on the opposite side, but it also helps when you meet someone for the first time. The simple question can avoid all of the small talk and end up with a much better relationship, even for a very short period.

And here is a discussion I had with Zachary while on holiday. I walked into the cafe and the waiter, Zach, greeted me happily.

“You’ve lost weight”, I said to him.

“On the contrary, I have put on quite a bit of weight, “he retorted. “After my mother died, one of the girls gave me a hug and literally lifted me off the ground. I had lost so much weight that I decided to change things”.

And then went on to talk about other things. However, he had made a very important point. He just told me that his mother had died a short while ago. From most people, this kind of discussion is just as unusual as talking about guns or astrology.

It’s a deeply sensitive topic and nobody wants to broach the issue. However, in most cases people are happy to talk about something that has affected them.

  • When did your mum die?
  • How did it affect you?
  • How did your siblings handle it?

These are some of the questions that I asked.

It was a busy day at the Cafe and yet he lingered at the table answering all the questions in quite a lot of detail.

Once again, questions are what make you slip over from your world into the other side. Whether it’s a highly contentious issue or something that’s deeply personal, asking questions enables you to stop thinking of yourself and start thinking of others instead.

This is not as if to say that you have to be a spineless character.

I’m happy to get my toy guns back even today. I’m still not likely to let astrology any time soon. If anything, so many of the arguments we have online and offline are just so pointless.

Even if we “win” the argument or have the last word, nothing has changed. Oh wait—something has changed. We express our views even more vociferously than before. You can live in a world where you have a difference of opinion and still understand the other person a lot better.

Questions let you do that.

The next time you want to get your point across, remember that it’s just a point. Ask questions, instead.

And here is why it’s so important to ask questions instead of getting your point across. There are two psychological reasons that play an important part in who we are as human beings.

The first reason is that we don’t want to be told how to think or what to do, and the second is that we often don’t like to be put into a camp.

A two-year-old will want to control what she does, as will a 90-year-old.

We all want control over our lives, whether young or old. One of the only aspects where we are allowed to run freely is in our thoughts. We feel like there is logic to how we gain knowledge.

Within that logic, we also form some opinions. At least a chunk of that opinion will contradict someone else’s thoughts. This is why when you tell someone how to think, they immediately resist. They feel that they have done enough “research”, and you are trying to sway them in your direction.

This kind of pushback doesn’t just come from politics, religion or other more volatile topics.

It could just be the way that someone stacks the plates. Or they want to do yoga in one way while you like to do it quite another way. We don’t experience other people’s feelings because we are stuck in our world.

When we ask questions, we are not telling them how to think. We are, instead, asking them how they feel. It does not mean we have to radically change our views or actions.

However, the fact that you are asking questions means you are giving the other person control.

You are not telling them how to think, making you a much better conversationalist. It sounds ironic because you’re not having a conversation. Instead, you’re asking the questions, and they are providing their answers.

Nonetheless, this is how you could move ahead and have conversations with a whole range of people – even those you will never agree with. Telling people how to think is never a good idea, nor is the concept of “putting people in a camp”.

What does putting people in a camp mean?

Who is more likely to be a better parent: the one who has kids or the one who doesn’t have kids? It’s a wide-open answer, isn’t it? However, when there is some sort of argument, the parent with kids will generally say something like this: “You don’t have kids, so how would you know?”

This kind of one-upmanship can go all the way.

Parents who have a disabled child might feel that they are more likely to understand the reality of disability than parents who don’t have a disabled child.

The moment we say things like: “Oh, you don’t understand because you…” we are putting in a camp. We are saying they don’t have the same knowledge or experiences as we do. Which is likely to be accurate, but that doesn’t help any kind of conversation.

Instead, what you get from the other person is instant disapproval. They reject that they don’t understand your situation. They instantly clamp up, and the conversation has become a minor argument. Or worse, they don’t say anything but walk away, shaking their heads in disbelief.

Most conversation-based problems are caused because we want our opinions to be heard.

We like to get our thoughts across and not necessarily ask questions. Yet, you will find your amazement that questions reveal how the other person is thinking and genuinely move them closer to you.

Even if you disagree with their position, you will find that you can have a drink together and start to talk about all the things you have in common.

The reality is that we have more things in common than things we disagree upon.

If you think of most people you know, even those you don’t necessarily agree with, you will find that just one or two things drive you crazy. Most of the time, you are similar in many ways.

We have so much in common, so why not harness more of that commonality instead of trying to disagree with each other all the time?

And how do we do this?

We ask questions, and in doing so, we share common ground. That’s how we have discussions with a good friend. It’s also how we can easily work with someone we agree with.

Try it today.


The post How To Have Conversations When You Don’t Necessarily Agree With The Other Person appeared first on Psychotactics.