I don’t want you to agree with me on this. I don’t want you to disagree, either.
Well, what else might there be?
I simply want you to understand what it is that I am saying, without letting your own preconceived ideas derail you from understanding what it is that I am saying.
Any person, with any amount of knowledge or understanding, can either agree or disagree to an argument that is presented. It doesn’t take a whole lot to do either. It does take something, though, to understand. It takes a whole lot to wait for the other person to fully get his or her point across, in order for you to be able to start to empathize with that person.
An argument is typically defined as
: a statement or series of statements for or against something
: a discussion in which people express different opinions about something
: an angry disagreement (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/argument)
Think about this for a moment: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” ~~ Attributed to Aristotle.
Remember, trying to understand the other person’s viewpoint takes a bit of extra work. Clarifying definitions, understanding positions, and seeing their goals are not always so easy to do. It’s made even more difficult when we let our own conditioned responses run roughshod over what’s being said.
It takes time. It takes patience. It takes a desire to know. Do you have what it takes?
The apostle Paul, in the Bible, once wrote that he became “all things to all men, so that by some means he might win a few.” (I Cor. 9:22b) This doesn’t mean that he accepted the lifestyles of those he came to understand. It simply means that he tried his best to understand the other side’s view, ultimately, so that he might apply the strengths and weaknesses of what they had to more readily accept his message.
Viktor Frankl once said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” There is a tiny space in time (and between synaptic connections) that we have to make up our minds. Our quick response can be to readily disagree, agree, or to hold off on judging thoughts and continue to gather information.
Who is up to the task of the third option?
Would you choose to hear someone out, to really hear and understand their views? Would you be able to keep your biases outside of your hearing? It takes discipline. More than that, it takes courage. Most do not have what it takes (although many think and say they do). The next time you find yourself in the midst of an argument, take the time to think about your position. Lay it down for a few minutes and listen to what the other person is saying. Listen beyond their words. Listen to their silences, as well. You can still empathize with them.
When one begins to practice this sort of communication, one will begin to grow by leaps and bounds. You do not have to ultimately accept what is being told to you. You should try to understand, though. In that understanding comes strength.