Do I always defend my opinions for a reason? The 4 stages to an argument

We spent Saturday in Norfolk at the weekend.  My Auntie and her husband hold a Hog Roast party every year.  It is a great event and goes on all weekend.  The thing is there is so much work needed the weekend before that is it too much for 2 people to do.

So we went up to help.  Moving horse manure, putting in fence posts, doing tents….the list goes on!

Anyway, after all that hard work my auntie always makes some wonderful food and we sit outside to eat, drink, chat and have a good laugh.

Well, something interesting happened this weekend.  Something we all do but I especially noticed it this time.

You see I have recently become a Vegan, or I should say trying to become a Vegan.  I am a Vegetarian but I am trying to be a Vegan.  Anyway, while we were chatting over some good food the topic of my new diet choice came up.

All the people around the table have known me as someone who ate meat for years.  When I said I was Vegetarian a couple of years ago they thought it was a bit weird but accepted it.  Then this weekend I told them I was a Vegan.  Well that is all I had to say!

Before I knew it we were talking about why, what I eat etc.  There was a little bit of teasing around the table and I found myself suddenly defending my position.  But not in a friendly way, in a aggressive way.

The teasing wasn’t even that bad.  This was my family but I still felt very annoyed that they were not taking my decision seriously.  Actually I was so angry that I started to raise my voice and started to say things about how bad it is to eat meat.

It got a little uncomfortable.  So much so that the next day when we left I asked Kim if she thought I had taken it the wrong way and…well she didn’t say no!  The funny thing is we forgot the newspaper we had bought and were only down the road so we turned around and went back.  As Kim was walking through the kitchen door to get the paper she heard my Auntie, Cousin and his girlfriend talking about the evening and wondering if they had teased me too much!

Clearly this had been a heated discussion the evening before.  But why did I get so annoyed?  And why did they start to get annoyed when I talked about the dangers of eating meat?

It is a good question.  Now I like to think I am the sort of person who considers people’s opinions and doesn’t just want to get my own across.  That said I do like to have a good debate from time to time!  But this evening I was definitely taking it a level too far.

So why do we defend our opinions?

I think the answer lies in the fact that we feel that our opinions are what makes us, well us.  It is our makeup, our personality, something that is part of our core beliefs.  This is wrong.  Nothing could be more wrong!

You are not your opinions!

Typically when we voice an opinion and someone disagrees, we start to feel that they are actually attacking our core beliefs.  This is where is starts to get interesting!  Let’s look at an example: –

You are interested in politics and support a particular party.  You are chatting with friends who don’t really care too much about politics but you know one of them is particularly against the party you like.  The conversation gets on to the current economy and your friend says that it’s the political parties fault.  While you don’t disagree you think the real reason is the party that was in charge before.

1. So you say this.

2. You friend disagrees.

3. You make a factual statement to defend yourself

4. Your friend says thats rubbish and before you know it you are getting annoyed and beginning to go red in the face!

What has happened here?

It only took a minute and already you are getting annoyed.  That is what happens.  It is like a dance that we all do.  It only takes 4 exchanges to get really annoyed.

You say this, they say that, you disagree, they disagree and bam!  You are almost arguing!

It is a natural feeling when your opinions are being challenged.  Mainly because most opinions are based on your beliefs.  You believe in “this” and then form opinions around it.  Like the example above, your belief is that the political party in power is the best, so you form opinions around this.

When that opinions is challenged your beliefs are being challenged.

So what now?  How do you avoid the argument or getting frustrated?

It is so important to always be mindful when you are talking to people.  Obviously when you are with friends that isn’t always easy.  You just want to say what you want to say, but this is exactly the time when you need to be mindful of the conversation.  I am happy to hold my hand and say that I have been someone who has felt annoyed too many times in conversations with people.

The more mindful you are of the conversation the less you will feel that your beliefs are being ignored or even attacked.  What do I mean about being mindful?

Well being present in the conversation.  Actually listening to what is being said and realising when others are actually speaking from their beliefs.  Not jumping in when others are speaking and understanding that they have a point of view also.

Doing it is easy…it is remembering to do it that is hard!

I have read some great books on this.  Obviously How to Win Friends and Influence people is a great book.  But there are also books that include The Present By Spencer Johnson.  And possible to best book on this Crucial Conversations.

This one of the best books I have ever read on the topic.

So if you find yourself getting into these types of conversations then perhaps you need to read this book?

To your success

Matt