We’ve all been there. You were in the middle of a great conversation and things turned ugly. The topic changed to politics, or religion, or money (or whatever gets under your skin) and suddenly you are part of a verbal clash. Did you lose your temper? Say something you regret? Damage a relationship?
Ask yourself these eight questions and see if you can keep cool the next time you receive an invitation to an argument:
1. Do I know what issues bother me?
Take some time to think about issues that could upset you. Are there particular issues for which you are very passionate?
2. How will I react?
Don’t wait until someone has pushed your buttons before you figure out what to do. You’ll be able to make better choices when you aren’t in the heat of the moment.
3. Am I falling into a trap?
Like it or not, some people will intentionally try to bait you into an argument. Don’t let yourself get set up to serve as someone else’s entertainment.
4. Am I listening?
A passionate discussion has started. Are you really listening or are you making a list of things to say next? There may be more common ground than you realize, but you need to listen to find out.
5. Am I online?
If you’re online, consider whether you want your discussion displayed forever. Sure, you can change your privacy settings, but it only takes one screen capture by the other party for the content to be saved (and distributed).
6. Where am I?
Is this an appropriate place for a heated discussion? Will you be a good role model for others who witness the exchange?
7. Will this damage our relationship?
Be careful, an emotional argument with your father-in-law over Thanksgiving dinner could hurt your relationship.
8. What is my goal?
Are you out to change someone’s mind or do you just want to express your views? Remember, other people believe in their opinions as passionately as you believe in yours. Sometimes there isn’t a right vs wrong – just a your opinion vs my opinion.
Discussion can be challenging and thought provoking. It can bring forth awesome new ideas and ignite change. All that potential is diluted if the conversation changes to an emotionally-charged yelling match.
Show some respect by doing your part to create a civil conversation.