Thoughts on not-arguing

by which I mean, keeping a tense discussion from getting angrier, or making an argument less angry and more like a discussion.

These thoughts all basically boil down to “focus on the long term”.

  • Instead of talking about what you both have said, talk about what you meant/what you believe/what you are advocating for. Acknowledge that the specifics of what was said may have been unclear or misunderstood.
  • The question of whether what you’ve both said was said well or respectfully or in appropriate language is a separate question from the underlying issue the argument is about. Notice when you are moving from one to the other and consider which one you want to focus on.
  • What is the underlying issue anyway? Take a minute to think about it. What do you want the other person to say or do? What’s the most important point you’re arguing for? Talk about that.
  • Winning in the actual material sense of getting the other person to do what you wanted them to do, and “winning the argument” in the sense of stuff like making them upset, or saying something they can’t refute, are different things. Often they are mutually exclusive things. You may have to give up on feeling like you’ve Won An Argument in order to actually get what you want.
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