photo © 2007 Kathleen Conklin | more info (via: Wylio)
We have an inherent drive to express ourselves. As social animals, we want to connect and share with others. There is a sense of fulfillment and liveliness in exchanging ideas and opinions that can not be found in anything else.
But having effective and meaningful discussions does not come naturally to most.
How many times has it happened to you that you started off a discussion with a lot of enthusiasm but it degenerated into an argument before you knew it? Do you often have such heated arguments with your family members? friends? colleagues? boss? juniors?
Let me first define the purpose of a discussion – A discussion is a means of finding a collective solution. We discuss things of common interest, that affect us all, try to gather everyone’s wishes and opinions, and reach at a solution that is the best for us as a group. Discussions help us understand and learn from each other, co-exist in harmony, and generate happiness and goodwill.
Here are a few tips to handle discussions well and keep them from becoming an argument.
Compromise. People often look down upon this word. They want their demands met. Compromise seems something that politicians look for, or those people who don’t have it in them to get what they want. A lot of people see their benefit as separate from that of others and that is all they care about.
To have an effective and meaningful discussion, you have to believe in collective well being. Compromise here, is not settling for less because you couldn’t squeeze out all that you wanted, it is agreeing to take along everyone as a rule, no matter what.
You have to be willing to make some concessions to accommodate the needs of others.
This is an absolute pre requisite. If you have no interest in the well being and happiness of other participants, rest assured you cannot have a meaningful discussion. You have to develop a sense of collective well being, you have to believe that all parties ultimately want the same thing and that your good and that of others is deeply interlinked.
Adding a human touch, creating a conducive environment. Discussions are human interactions, but have a tendency to turn into animal fights if not properly managed. Create and maintain a positive environment. Don’t start right off, or continue with only the topic at hand. Crack jokes, ask questions about the well being of others, ask how things are going with them.
If there are others who are too uptight, ready to unleash their ‘arguments’ to prove their points, it will calm down their excitement and make them feel part of the whole group. If there are those who are a little nervous, it will help them feel more safe and at ease. This loosens everyone up.
Have a reason to discuss. Before entering a discussion, analyze your reasons. Ask yourself – What purpose will this discussion solve? What am I trying to take away from it? Is it towards a positive solution or is it to prove my point, satisfy my ego?
This may require a split second if you are just going to ask your friend to go for a movie, or it may require prolonged deliberation if you are going to sit with your business team and suggest a big change in your company’s direction. Regardless, it is important to have a purpose for a dialogue that is meaningful and focused and that promotes clarity and understanding.
Are your discussions with the right people? Analyze also the other participants. Are these people willing to work towards a solution? If not, can you motivate them to? Is it worthwhile having this discussion with them? Sometimes, you know it before hand that an argument is inevitable. Avoid such discussions. Silence may be better here. There will be better times to bring this topic up for discussion.
Breaks. Encourage and insist upon taking frequent breaks. It’s easy to get carried away in a discussion and repent later. Breaks, even though they may seem unnecessary, will help everyone collect themselves and calm down.
Listen to your Inner Guide. One thing to note is that there is always an inner feeling that moves up and down with the state of the discussion. You feel positive, full of energy and lively when the discussion is going in the right direction and the other way when it is degenerating into an argument. Be aware of that inner feeling. Keep asking yourself whether you are feeling happy, connected and positive? Do you feel positive energy flowing and solutions coming up? If yes, continue. If not, it is time to slow down. This is known as mindfulness . It takes a lot of practice to become aware when you are loosing it. Try it often and don’t loose heart. Carry on, it can only get better!
Assume total control. Discussions will involve others and you cannot dictate how they conduct themselves. But what you can control totally is, your response to the situation. Keep yourself calm and keep your focus on how to do your best.
If things are getting tense, try to momentarily detach yourself from the discussion. Take deep breaths and drink some water. Reconnect with why you are having this discussion. Tell yourself – ‘All is well’. Smile and then continue.
Sharing ideas and working together is a wonderful experience. It has great power to help us do great things. Use this power properly and it will fill your life with happiness, achievement and connectedness.