We all have heard the expression attitude is everything and I recently heard it during a personal growth session, with regards to communication and in a way that I have never heard it used before.
The premise was to ask oneself: 'When you enter a conversation, you engage with an attitude of a debate or an attitude of dialogue? Wow, that hit home!
Anyone that knows me, knows that I love a good debate, and exploring all angles of a situation, and yes, I also love playing devil’s advocate and pushing "limiting beliefs" boundaries when worth it, even if that sometimes pushes people, and myself, out of our comfort zones. So I know that I have a lot of room to grow in this department!
The same session also introduced to me the characteristics of a “contrarian”, which is that person that no matter what is being said, feels an urge to present a completely opposite opinion, even if such opinion might be obviously a far-fetched possibility. I've always called those people "stubborn", and I've been described as one for sure, I am passionate about what I believe in, but I have never had a problem ending a conversation with a sincere: "let's agree to disagree!".
The acknowledgment that the INTENTION with which we engage in conversation is what will make a difference in the entire experience, even if obvious, was mind-blowing to me. Are we engaging in dialogue or debate? I have seen people, that I now know are called 'contrarians', defending two sides of the very same argument with a passion beyond belief, and my question would be: wouldn't you gain more to defend YOUR true belief on the matter? Staying true to what we really believe in, rather than engaging in debate for the sake of it might help us create a new bond with somebody rather than burn unnecessary bridges or be dubbed "radical". The subject of Trump is a perfect example of this. I have seen several people defend him before the haters and trash him with his fans, creating seas of uneasiness and negative energy in the process. Is our need to win an argument, impose our own opinion, or even be provocative worth so much?
I believe that the more we acquire knowledge and experiences as we go through life, our ego will do everything to make us embrace the contrarian in us and approach each conversation as a debate. Our ego wants us to default to the contrarian in us, and the only way to change that "script" is by intentionally embracing dialogue.
Being aware, BEFORE we start a conversation on how we are going to engage in it, can be a very powerful tool to change the dynamics of how we communicate with others. Dialogue is open, collaborative, respectful, nurturing, curious, and empathetic. Debate is closed, combative, selfish, disrespectful, apathetic, and very rarely leaves you feeling good about it.
What kind of conversation do you want to have?