Dale Carnegie said to win friends we had to avoid arguments. He thought arguments are usually conducted as fights, with both sides trying to win. And usually, no one does.
We live in what some observers without historical perspective call ‘troubled times’. They think society is more fractious; that there are more disputes, more bitterness, and less interest in the truth.
Much of this is blamed on a new channel of communication – the internet. Social scientists propose that what is playing out on a grand scale over the internet is a massive ‘reasoned’ attempt to find, define and survive our social groups. Disagreement occurs because it is necessary to define social groups.
Disagreement turns septic if we adopt the idea that there is only one right answer – one truth – on any matter. We reason that our belief must be the truth. If our opponents are wrong, they must have bad intent for thinking so. If they have bad intent, they must be despised.
This attitude is the challenge of using the truth. Your opponents need a reason to trust you – a signal that you have good intent even if you disagree with them. You must connect facts and proposals to their motivations and perspectives. You must listen, and let them work out how your facts and arguments fit their own. You win not by being right, but being trusted by opponents to seek truth that matches their intentions.
Truth is constructive and adaptive, while lies are destructive and self-defeating. Provide the truth courageously, dodge the slings and arrows of your opponent’s tactics, and wait.