Letter from the managing editor: Arguments: How constructive are they?

By Denise Harroff—

Managing Editor

Updated on Dec. 9, 2015.

Personally, I’m a pretty peaceful person. I hardly ever raise my voice, I share my opinions with people only when I find it necessary to give a different point of view, and I am slow to anger. Growing up, I was always the first to “roll over” in an argument. I felt it more important to keep the peace than to spout my differences. As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve found that arguments can be constructive when they take place at the right place, right time and with the right people.

There are times when you will meet those people in your life that do not argue to hear another perspective or broaden their mind. Too many people really enjoy hearing themselves talk. But think about it this way: How many times have you gotten into an argument with someone you hardly knew or got into an argument so heated that you were yelling at one another, and that argument ended with one person being persuaded to the other side of the argument? I’ll answer that for you: Never.

Now think about it in this way: How many times have you sat down with someone you knew well and had a heated, emotional debate or discussion that ended with agreeing-to-disagree or one person deciding that the other is more correct? These types of arguments usually end much more happily and easily.

What I’m trying to say here is that there is a time and place to debate, and there are other times when you just have to let it go. I no longer am the type of person to “roll over” in an argument. If someone feels compelled to share their passionate opinion with me, I should be given the same right. However, it is a chance that has a much better ending when it is granted to you, not claimed by you.

Now that I am a little older, if I speak my mind with someone, I am open to hearing what they have to say. If I do not agree, I will happily agree-to-disagree, and the relationship between them and me does not change. This is evidence that I personally grant anyone the opportunity to have an open discussion with me. Many people do not operate this way.

When someone is on the corner with a picket sign, screaming their point of view at passers-by, how effective would it be to try to walk up to them and have a discussion? How likely is it that that person will hear your point of view, accept it, agree-to-disagree and walk away feeling more educated on the opposing point of view? How likely is it that they will hear your opinions and be persuaded to believe the same, leading them to put down their picket sign and change their ways? It’s not very likely. This would be an example of claiming the opportunity to have a discussion. Unless you feel compelled by a religious calling, I challenge you to walk away from opportunities for discussions like this. No one “wins,” and the only effective thing that will take place is angering both parties.

I have learned over time that there is a time and place for everything. Arguments held between two mature people with minds that can leave the discussion happy with an agreement to disagree are incredibly constructive. It is a way to know what it’s like to see things in a different light. You don’t have to accept that vision, but it leads to knowledge and better understanding of other points of view.

Arguments spent in a yelling match, trying to get the other person to change his or her mind, roll over, give up and say, “You win,” are just desperate attempts at power.

All in all, arguments can be incredibly destructive. They also have the potential to build relationships even stronger than before. It all depends on how they are carried-out. Let’s be adults and listen to different perspectives while calmly and effectively stating our own. You’re welcome to agree to disagree.

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