How To Approach Conflict
People don’t get along. Siblings fight. Debates rage across the world about the correct way to treat people and animals and property. Countries wage war with each other. Some countries wage war with themselves. History is one huge list of disagreements and the steps people have taken to prove their rightness.
People suffer standing up for their opinions. They die for their beliefs.
Even today, in a world where most people live in democracies that claim to consider the needs and thoughts of all.
And it is important to stand up for the right things. Without the sacrifices some people were willing to make, slavery would never have been abolished. Women would never have won the right to vote. Poor people would not have access to good quality healthcare. Without the sacrifices people are still willing to make, we may continue to see animals going extinct every day. Child soldiers may never be liberated. Religious wars that have lasted thousands of years already may never be quenched.
But it’s important to carefully consider the kind of sacrifices that people make and why they choose to argue their case in such ways.
When people take up arms to win a simple argument, when they feel the need to defend their opinion with violence, it does not mean that they are right. It is famously, and not incorrectly, claimed that history is written by the winners. Winning does not make you right, if you won by brute force alone.
Allowing this to be way we decide our disagreements only perpetuates the idea that the biggest bully in the playground automatically deserves their power.
People who choose to back up their opinions with force do not genuinely believe that their argument is valid. People who feel the need to silence those who oppose their ideas simply are not able to back up their point legitimately.
And it is reasonable to get frustrated, maybe even angry, when the people you argue with behave with wilful stupidity. When they ignore facts and evidence that can be – and has been – tested repeatedly, it can be a task to remain calm when they are so set in their smug delusions. Then, it feels like logic, reason and evidence is not enough.
Then, you might understand why people take such extreme measures to prove someone wrong.
But then is not when you are at your most reasonable. Those times are the ones that are most clouded by emotion.
Then are the ones that you are at your least Zen.
Anything you feel then, you have to accept is not based on your truly held convictions. Then you are acting based only on your frustrations. And basing any decisions on those stung, bitter feelings will only end badly.
People who approach these situations calmly – whether it’s you, your mother or Gandhi – are the ones who will earn the respect of those who see it. They are the people who will set examples for solving problems with integrity, dignity and respect.
They are non-violent protesters of the world. The conscientious objectors. The ones who do not feel the need to overpower what they have to say with brutality of any kind. They avoid childishness. They do not lash out.
They do not rise to the taunting, argumentative attitude of those who insult them. They remain firm in their thoughts without resorting to base aggression.
They are the people who know that their argument is sound, that their logic and reasoning makes sense to those to care to evaluate it. That the point of a reasonable idea is that it can be criticised and critiqued and will be still be standing at the end of it all. That, if it does not prove to be as solid as it at first seemed, it can be changed and improved until its gaps are plugged.
Anyone who feels the need to back up their opinions with force, especially if they come to the debate with it already prepared, is not confident that logic properly supports their belief. They are afraid that they will be proved wrong and their pride leaves them unwilling to compromise, or to accept that they have been misled or mistaken.
The only assault someone need ever bring to a disagreement is a thoroughly considered stance and the ability to convey it clearly and appropriately. If people refuse to listen, that is their problem, not yours.
If you approach an argument with anything more aggressive than a well-supported idea, you will be undermined far more easily. Whether you are a politician threatening war if another country does not comply with your rules or a school kid preparing insults about another child’s mother, you are only overcompensating for your own lack of conviction.
All you need in order to win a debate you find yourself caught up in is confidence in your side and a willingness to consider objections and only dismiss them once they are proved more foolish than your initial point. No further armament is ever necessary.
Approaching conflict is something you must do confidently.
But there is such a thing as being over prepared.
Come calmly. Communicate openly. Let the truth at the foundation of your ideals be all the offense you need.
You are not unarmed without a weapon.