Tuesday, 14 August 2012


Think about all the disagreements you've ever had with a partner, friend, colleague, relation, fellow internet-poster or even the bloke behind you in the queue. What proportion of these exchanges could best be described as 'Arguing to Win' (ATW) and what proportion would be better described as  'Discussions to Reveal' (DTR)? My guess is that your ATW figure is far higher than your DTR figure. Right?

We are all familiar with the ATW strategy. You put forward your view; then back it up with all the sub-arguments, examples/ illustrations and supporting evidence you can muster. You sidestep any good counter-arguments from your 'opponent' and rubbish his/her evidence. You are operating as an advocate rather than as a judge. We have all done it. It's such a familiar procedure that I don't think I need to give you examples.

The DTR strategy may be less familiar. Once again you state your opinion. But this time you are less dogmatic. This is your opinion at this time; you're prepared to modify or even change it completely if given relevant counter-evidence. You listen carefully to your 'opponent' and give him/her credit for points made that you believe to be correct. He/she does the same for you. You are on a joint enterprise to find the truth/ fairness. Of course, in due course, you may have to agree to disagree. This may not be a blanket disagreement. You may  well agree on some points, disagree on others and need more information on yet others. You have both been operating as judges rather than advocates.

I want to suggest to you that this is a very important distinction. Just imagine a world in which everyone used the DTR rather than the ATW strategy. What do you see? More harmony/ happiness or less harmony/ happiness? I see much more.

I think we would do well to teach DTR to our children. Of course, you may well have different ideas. I'm listening    --------------

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