The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Building Relationships, Not Arguments

You know the situation. You encounter a person who is absolutely, insistently right about some issue.* It's black and white all the way with them ... where you may see some shades of gray. An argument ensues. You both leave with high blood pressure, throbbing temples, and a foul mood. Nothing positive is accomplished. You call the person "self-righteous" and stalk off ... sometimes carefully marshaling what you hope will be devastating proofs of your position for the next encounter.

Let's not have that next encounter with the marshaled proofs. Let's look at the situation more dispassionately and see what might be lurking behind the scenes. Psychologists tell us that those who are always and forever insistently "right" and vocally defending their correctness in a self-righteous manner tend to be people who are, underneath it all, feeling shamed, lonely, and rejected. They often focus on what is "right" in a situation to avoid dealing with their own pain. They may feel terribly, horribly wronged and insist on seeing themselves as in the right. In doing so, they place all the blame for what's hurting them on someone or something outside of themselves entirely.

Rather than getting involved in the next argument over who is right and who isn't under such circumstances, we can choose instead to develop and strengthen a relationship with the wounded person. Look past the insistence to the potential pain underneath. Try to build instead a bond of friendship, a way to grow some understanding between you, and provide a safe, listening presence in which over time that pain might be teased out, heard, understood, and perhaps even healed. Allow the hurting person behind the facade of self-righteousness to be raised up, rather than dashed down in another blistering debate. You will definitely have to take the road less traveled to do so, acting counter to the prevailing culture. You will be in for some hard work. But, you may gain a new friend. You may also learn something new.

The next time I feel the urge to rise up and argue how right I am over some issue, I'm going to stop for a moment and ask myself if I am not responding out of pain--loneliness, rejection, and/or shame--that I would rather place somewhere outside of me in some adversary who I am labeling as absolutely wrong instead of coping with what is hurting me ... Taking that moment to breathe and be honest with myself might just spare me and others some heated, often pointless, painful argument. How about you?

* I'm not suggesting here that people not stand up for justice, by the way. That's not the issue at hand here .... and you KNOW I'm right (humor).

For more, see the Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling

You may also encounter sarcasm in this situation, and here's a suggestion for coping:

A different perspective helps as well:

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