I was recently in an online discussion with a person regarding the memes that poke a little fun at nationally recognized movements. While I supported the nationally recognized movement, I also found the alternative meme very humorous.
My counterpart did not agree. He felt the other view was not an equivalent stance. The conversation went on for hours and I tried to help him get a little different perspective. He continued with his “these are not equivalent arguments” and seemed to refuse to see anything else.
I tend to be a question-asker. I am training myself to ask more questions. I think asking questions helps us to better understand the situation and not simply take it at face value. However, as I asked questions, in order to determine if this person understood my points and just disagreed, which of course is fine, or whether he did not understand my points. If it was the latter, was it because I was not doing a good job in communicating? Or was it because he simply refused to understand my points?
I tried different analogies and different processes, but was still being met with resistance.
And then it hit me. He was too.
While I looked at all his comments and responses and saw the same phrases and key words, I realized that he honestly felt he was offering me many options to see his view. I thought I was seeing his view, and that I just didn’t agree with it. But we were in the same position. He was determined to help me understand his view.
Why did we both seem to have this feeling that we were not being heard? Or understood?
While I pondered this I received a message that basically said I was not able to understand or accept his position because I had personal issues that I was unable to get around.
Leaving aside that I was starting to think the same thing about him, I wondered if we were just not allowed to understand each other but still disagree. Was there some unwritten, unspoken set of rules?
I felt that I did understand his view, I just felt mine was a bit bigger and more inclusive of the world. However, I had the impression that I was not permitted to say “I understand… I just don’t agree.” And that is not to say that I thought he was wrong, just that I thought his view was rather small and limited. I agreed with the seed of his argument, but it seemed to be only a seed.
On that same day, I was involved in another conversation with someone I knew a little in high school, and we recently reconnected online. There are topics we agree on and some we don’t. On this particular topic, we agreed on a few points, but not a few others. And we didn’t really hold our tongues. After that second conversation, of only a few somewhat heated minutes, we both went on with our day.
It was not until after the aforementioned discussion that I had the feeling that when talking to my high school friend, it was assumed we could just say it like we mean it and we don’t have to agree. We generally respected each others opinion in that we could see they were thoughtful and based on something other than emotion.
The first conversation did not have those rules of engagement. I was left with the feeling that since I did not agree, I clearly did not understand and furthermore, had personal issues concerning the topic.
I now have some advice for those wishing to have online discussion with people you don’t really know.
- Create a mutual set of goals. What is the preferred outcome? What are acceptable outcomes?
- Discuss beforehand how each of you will know you have met your goal.
- Accept that you might not meet that goal and that you both can be good, intelligent people, even so.
- Be OK with just letting it go. This is not your spouse and a discussion of having children. How important can this really be?
Feel free to share your own stories of conversations that seemed to go nowhere, and how they were resolved, or if they never were.
I am a humorous and inspirational speaker and writer, but Storytelling is my love. I am an open-networker and invite you to connect. Please feel free to join the conversation on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @Dachia .
The above was originally published at LinkedIn.