As humans, we hold onto many self-limiting beliefs. I’m no exception. And, it is these self-limiting beliefs that hold us back from the success we deserve, in life, work, and most importantly…relationships.
Whether we are in a sales conference, engaging in friendly debate, or having an argument, perhaps the first and hardest self-limiting belief to overcome is the thought “I’m right and you’re wrong”. As soon as we believe that we are right, we have already limited our thoughts and options in the discussion. This is the very definition of being ‘closed minded’.
In sales, being closed minded can be a deal breaker. Sometimes sales people believe they know exactly what the customer wants and needs. The salesperson works far too hard to convince the customer that they are right and the customer needs to understand the values and benefits of what they have to offer. This is sometimes referred to as ‘hard sales’ and is a great way to damage a relationship. Being open-minded is often a better way to create a healthy and long-lasting relationship. Asking questions, showing concern, and demonstrating empathy instead will leave the customer thinking that they made a good decision instead of ‘being sold’.
Much of the same is true whether you are engaging in friendly debate or having an argument with your significant other. It can also be said that being more open-minded when raising children is a good idea. This is not to say that you have to agree, just that you don’t have to work so hard to prove you are right.
In parenting, you may have to lay down the law at the end of the conversation, but through the process you can be empathetic, loving, and understanding while still being firm and fair with the house rules. I heard a fantastic idea many years ago that I try to live by as a parent, it goes something like this, “I am not your friend. I’m your parent. My job is to raise you to become the type of person I would want to be friends with when you are an adult.” To do this requires endless patience, empathy, understanding, and open-minded conversation. Another saying I use often is, “You know that I love you, right? What kind of love is it? Yes, sometimes it has to be tough love.”
When engaging in a friendly debate, it is always a good idea to ask how and why a person feels the way they do about their side of the issue. That way, even if you should continue to disagree, it is understood that your disagreement is based on viewpoint, not personal feelings towards one another.
Politics is an easy example. If you ask how and why a person believes that the Democratic or Republican solution is best, you may discover that it is because their parents raised them with that belief, or they had an experience in life that caused them to believe in a certain way, or they joined an organization that preached a certain viewpoint. You may also find that your own beliefs come from a similar experience. Maybe your family has always voted a certain party line and you never even considered another option. By asking instead of accusing or condemning, you may find your debate is more fun and preserve your friendship by agreeing to disagree.
When having an argument, emotions are high and it’s often difficult to stop and think about the other person’s position. Here is a neat trick called the ‘3 Why’s’. When in an argument, most people are so highly emotional that they will stand their ground and be totally unreasonable in their position. This is the definition of ‘unreasonable’ because when in a highly emotional state, we can’t reason properly.
Stop and ask WHY 3 times in a row when you get to a certain topic in the argument. When you ask WHY the first time, the other person will give their most highly charged emotional response. When you ask WHY the second time, they will actually start to think about the answer, but might also respond with something like, “I just told you why!” When you ask WHY for the third time, you tend to break the cycle and cause them to look deeper for the real answer.
In coaching, there is a technique which is known as the ‘endless why’ which is designed to ferret out someone’s core beliefs, but I don’t recommend it for arguments.
“I’m right and you’re wrong” is a belief that limits you and me. It doesn’t empower you. It closes your mind to the endless possibilities of life and relationships. Learn to let go of the thought that you need to right. In the reality of life, there is no right or wrong. There is only a point of view. When we choose to respect that point of view in others, we open our minds, open our hearts, and open up a world of possibility.
Is this to say that we should change our opinion and agree with everyone? No, that would be insanity. Just spend less time believing you have to be right and change everyone else around you, which is another form of insanity.
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