BE HAPPY OR BE RIGHT

When you win an argument, do you really win? And what do you win? Being caught in an argument in itself is more likely a no-win situation…

We spend so much time trying to make people see the world through our own eyes that we forget sometimes that we all have a different view on reality. In fact, who is right or wrong doesn’t really matter!

In fact, most people argue for small details and no real reasons. Everybody’s brain processes information differently using their senses and one’s reality is totally different than someone else’s. Knowing that we are all different and that in our own head, we are always right, makes us realize that all there is to be defended is our own ego. The truth doesn’t need to be defended.

THEY WANT TO BE HEARD, NOT RIGHT

Communication involves at least two people, which implies two different perspectives on the subject being discussed. You don’t have to agree with the other person’s point of view or even like it. This fact is key to make any form of communication easier. We get into long extensive debates attempting to convince someone we are right.When communicating with someone, it is the differences in opinions and points of view that cause disagreement. We often get into an endless back-and-forth exchange of contradictory ideas that ends up with either a “Let’s agree to disagree”, or a “Whatever!!!” —secretly thinking inside ourselves that the other person is being such a stubborn jerk and that we should try to stay away from them in the future.

In most cases, it is perceived that people are defending their opinion. Whether they are right or not doesn’t matter, the truth doesn’t need to be defended. However, what they are really defending is their own ego. We are human. The reality is that we don’t necessarily need to be right. We need to be heard. We need to feel that we are okay to be thinking a certain way. We need to feel that the other person ‘gets us’. We need to know that we were perfectly normal for thinking a certain way, even if along the way, we changed our mind. We are actually very open to changing our opinion when we feel that the other person understood us.

Let’s demonstrate this with a very simple example. Let’s say you are eating broccoli soup. Your spouse walks into the kitchen and asks: “How is your cauliflower soup?” Somehow their brain is confused momentarily, and they are sure that what they said is ‘broccoli’. In their own model of reality, they think they said ‘broccoli’. The color of the soup is very green and it is obvious that it is broccoli soup. They are sure that is what they said.

SCENARIO NUMBER ONE:

They say: “How is your cauliflower soup?”

You respond: “It is not a cauliflower soup, it is a broccoli soup.”

They say: “That is what I said, broccoli.”

You say: “No, you said cauliflower.”

They say: “I am pretty sure I said broccoli, but whatever….”

The conflict has started.

SCENARIO NUMBER TWO:

They say: “How is your cauliflower soup?”

You respond: “My CAULIFLOWER soup?” – putting an accent on the word they just said.

They immediately recognized the word that came out of their own mouth less than a second ago. They respond: “Oh, did I say cauliflower? I meant broccoli! Duh!”

You say: “I know it happens to me all the time too, I want to say something, and somehow another word slips in instead. My broccoli soup is delicious.”

Conflict aborted by simply repeating what they just said and telling them that it happens to you as well and they are perfectly okay.

THE STEP BY STEP TECHNIQUE

This is a long-term technique. It is designed to gain the confidence of the person you are interacting with so that eventually, you will be able to influence them and maybe sway them to change their opinion.

  1. Forget about the truth, the truth or the ‘right thing’ doesn’t have to be defended.
  2. Repeat what they just said. With their own words.
  3. Shut up.
  4. Let them talk.
  5. Repeat what they just said. With their own words.
  6. Shut up.
  7. Let them talk.
  8. Repeat the process until they have said everything they wanted to say or ask you a question or ask your opinion.
  9. Before you answer or tell your part, recap what they just said and ask them if you understood them and if you got it right?
  10. Ask them if there is anything else they have not mentioned yet that would enlighten your own perspective, before you can tell them what you think.
  11. Listen for their last piece on the subject matter.

Sometimes, you won’t even get to say what you think. Especially with teenagers, children or people in higher authority than yours. Sometimes for lack of time or lack of concern or interest from the other party.

After a few times using this technique with the same person, they will eventually start thinking: “Wow, interesting, when I talk to them, they really listen to me and they really ‘get me’. I can totally trust them.” Eventually, they will start enquiring about your opinion. Then the technique will continue:

  1. More likely they will say: “So, what do you think?”
  2. You can start with: “I totally get where you are coming from and you are totally right to be thinking that way. I can see how it makes sense. I hear you.” Then you add: “and, I guess what I was thinking may come as a bit of a surprise to you, as I have another perspective. What if it was possible that … (insert your opinion here).”

As mentioned, it may take a while before your opinion is asked for or heard. Be patient, you will get your turn. This technique is designed to create long-term relationships with people around you. let’s face it, if you are in the presence of someone you will never see again in your life, you don’t really care whether or not you can influence them. If you are experiencing challenging relationships, it is more likely with someone in your close environment, maybe a co-worker, a boss, a subordinate, a family member, a child, a spouse, a friend, etc. It is worth the effort.

THE TEENAGER WHO WANTS TO QUIT SCHOOL

Here is an example of a brilliant teenager who wants to quit school to work full-time in a fast-food-restaurant.

SCENARIO NUMBER ONE

Without using the listening/repeating technique:

Teenager: “I think I’m gonna quit school.”

You: “No, you can’t do that!!! You have such a brilliant future.”

Teenager: “Yes, but I have worked all summer and I am making a lot of money. I don’t want to go back to school in the fall.”

You: “The minimum wage you are making is nothing. You can’t live on that! It’s just that you are living at your parent’s house and you have no expenses, so that’s why you feel like you are making lots of money.”

Teenager: “Well, I don’t even know what I would study anyways, nothing really interests me.”

You: “Then go in something general and you can decide after, but you can’t just quit school.”

Teenager: “Well, I can register if you want but I won’t go. I will skip all my courses because the teachers are bad anyways!”

SCENARIO NUMBER TWO

Using the listening/repeating technique:

Teenager: “I think I’m gonna quit school.”

You: “You think you’re gonna quit school.” (Then shut up.)

Teenager: “Yes, I don’t want to go back in September.”

You: “You don’t want to go back in September.”

Teenager: “I have worked all summer and I am making of a lot of money.”

You: “You’ve worked all summer and you are making a lot of money.”

Teenager starting to think that you totally ‘get’ them: “Well not ‘a lot’ of money but it’s good and I have lots of savings.”

You: “Not ‘a lot’ of money but you think it’s good and you have lots of savings.”

Teenager: “Yes, for the first time in my life, I have a thousand dollars in my bank account.”

You: “What? You have a thousand dollars in your bank account?”

Teenager feeling very proud as you are making them feel great: “Yes I am pretty proud of myself for that.”

You: “You must be pretty proud of yourself for that!”

Teenager loving you because you pointed out something great they did: “Yes, it feels great! I still don’t know what I want to do later so I don’t know what courses I would take if I was to go back to school.”

You: “You don’t what you want to do later, or what courses you would take if you were to go back to school hey?”

Teenager: “No, I have no idea.”

You: “You have no idea. That must not be an easy situation to be in.”

Teenager: “No, it is not easy.”

You: “You are very resourceful though. I trust that you will figure this out and you will make the right decision.”

Teenager empowered about you trusting them and telling them they are resourceful: “Well, I don’t know about that…. What would YOU do?”

And there it is. After a while of repeating and telling them what they want to hear, all of a sudden, they turn back to you and ask your opinion. It may take a while, and it may take more than one conversation for them to start opening themselves to you. But ultimately, they will.

You: “Well, I am not in your situation, and I wonder if it is possible for you to register in some general courses that could then lead into a specialization. Is there such a thing? You would know more than me?”

Teenager: “Yes, there are courses that I can take while I’m deciding on my specialization.”

You: “I guess the fact that you have $1,000 in your bank account is a great thing and it will help pay for some expenses while you are in school and pay for some school stuff too. Eventually, you may want to research how much money you will need to live when you move out of your parents’ place and start paying your own expenses. You could direct your schooling towards aiming for the best paying jobs. If you don’t really know what you want to do anyways, you may as well go towards something that will give you a good paycheque right?”

Teenager: “Yeah, I guess so.”

You: “The money you are making now at the fast food restaurant may not be enough to get you everything that you want in the future. You are brilliant, and you deserve what is best! You have already proven that you are hardworking, look at you, you have saved $1,000! That means that you are able to work hard. You can do the same at school and quickly be part of the people who make six figure salaries. You know all the big houses in the neighborhood over there? We always wonder who owns these big mansions? Well that could be you if you study and work hard. You have everything you need inside you to do that. You are awesome!”

Teenager: “Thanks! I guess so!”

Next time you are tempted to enter an argument…. remember to chose o be happy instead! Just smile and let the other tell you about their reality. Then you both win!

Nathalie

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