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What Are Our Arguments Really About?

What Are Our Arguments Really About?

Assuming that you are a human being reading this – apologises if you are not – I suspect that you will have argued with individuals close to you at various points in your life. Conflicts are sometimes considered to be a negative aspect of life but if you begin to contemplate the situation a little more, arguing can often be a positive, constructive experience. High Existence offers an interesting perspective on why we argue:

WIthin the animal kingdom, if you’re a lion and another lion encroaches on your territory you roar and growl to let the other guy know this is your space. Testing the water, he roars and growls right back at you. Often, after a series of traded threats the outsider will stand down and the argument dissipates. Occasionally, the other lion does not back off and a bloody fight ensues until one is mortally injured or submits. Sound familiar? How often do we argue with our significant others, our siblings, our parents, our friends with the overwhelming need to be right, to be the victor? And what’s wrong with that? Well, wrong is a matter of perspective, but I will say that we are not lions…most of us, anyway.

In our animalistic past, we did in fact have to fight with others to protect ourselves, our family, our territory. In that sense, arguing or fighting is a survival instinct, a threat response. The problem is that during an argument, unless we are very conscious of our feelings, thought processes, prejudices, etc., then our brain automatically defers to that instinct. This means that every time we get into it with someone, the instinctual response is to be right, to dominate. While this may work for animals, it doesn’t yield such effective results for us.

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Arguing constructively

“If you’re arguing with someone for more than five minutes, chances are it’s not about them or their actions. It’s about you.”

My grandfather

When I first heard that I thought I understood but it has taken me many years to decipher that statement. I’m still finding deeper truth in those words every time I engage in an argument. I’m realizing that staying present in those tough situations is paramount. By ‘present’ I mean taking a moment to breathe, check-in with oneself, and to honestly examine what is there. We cannot argue effectively if we are unaware of what is going on inside. Furthermore, once we confront those thoughts and emotions, we must learn to accept. For instance, if you’re furious, allow yourself to feel furious. Notice, I did not say act furious. But how can I feel something and not let it affect my actions? Isn’t that just repression? Let’s see.

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Christina (my significant other) left the country for two weeks with some friends. I wasn’t able to accompany her due to work and a few other obligations. We’ve been together for eight years, and it had been a while since we had spent any extended time apart. So we agreed that we would set aside some time each day to check-in. One morning, we had begun one such conversation when suddenly the rest of the group arrived at her room and wanted to have breakfast. She told me that she had to go and I asked if we were going to speak later. She was getting flustered and couldn’t give me a straight answer because she was unsure of the plans for the day. I said, “fine” and we hung up.

I was furious. I felt completely dejected and blown off. In my fury, I sent her a very nasty message telling her how ridiculous I thought it was that she couldn’t make a few minutes for me, and blaming her for being inconsiderate and cruel. In turn, she called me back, full of anger, and told me how inconsiderate was acting. And so we argued and blamed each other for everything and anything. We became two ferocious lions trying to subdue each other.

I had to sit with my fury that day, which was a good thing. It allowed me to examine what was really happening. It had been a long time since I had experienced that sort of anger. Why now? I sat in a meditative state. I focused on my breath first to calm myself, and then on the anger. I allowed the thoughts and feelings to flow. I realized two things. First, when Christina blew me off, I wanted revenge. I wanted her to experience the pain I felt. This realization led to the next: I was feeling lonely and insecure being so far from her for the first time in years. I felt how much I really missed her.

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The next day, we finally spoke and I told her what I had discovered. There was resistance at first. She was still angry. In turn, I felt my own lingering anger start to rise up. Instead of reacting, I thought about what I had learned. I sat and listened to her talk. She confided that she was feeling stressed out because the trip was non-stop activity, and she was catching a cold. She told me that the way I had acted the day before had really hurt her and made her feel guilty. I apologized for my incendiary behavior, but I also calmly told her that when she more or less hung up on me, I had felt devalued and unimportant. She then apologized, and admitted she could have handled the situation better. We both admitted to still feeling a little angry, and that was OK. No one won. No one lost.

Enslaved to the Unconsciousness

Get the picture? Now imagine what that situation could have been if we had started in the place we ended. Maybe I would have started the conversation that day with the feelings I had been experiencing. In turn, she may have also told me about her troubles. The point is that even before the fight began, we had not been conscious of our mental/emotional processes. If we had, it may not have happened. Or it may have happened regardless, but we would have approached it differently. We would have been able to have a constructive argument from the get-go, which probably would have dissipated much sooner.

We get tangled up in our anger and it blinds us to the truth. The minute that occurs, we start growling, roaring, and blaming. Only when Christina and I spoke peacefully, candidly, and honestly did the healing begin. It then became not about who was right, but about how we were feeling. Why is this so effective? Because you cannot argue with emotion. Your feelings are your feelings and no one can tell you otherwise. The difficult part is learning how to speak openly about those emotions. It can be a frightening and vulnerable position, but those are just more insecurities we must acknowledge and accept.

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The bottom line is that when we argue with someone else, it is about what’s going on inside of us. When we realize that, then arguments can be an enormously constructive part of life and love. As such, learning how to argue constructively is a must if you want to be in any long-term relationship—romantic, familial, or platonic.

Why We Argue | Highexistence

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Siobhan Harmer

Siobhan is a passionate writer sharing about motivation and happiness tips on Lifehack.

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

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Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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