A basic requirement for clear thinking – 4

March 14, 2011 at 6:38 am Leave a comment

Continued from “A basic requirement for clear thinking – 3: https://truthandsurvival.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/a-basic-requirement-for-clear-thinking-%e2%80%93-3/

A new way of arguing

By RALPH DOBRIN

Excerpts from his book “How to avoid Armageddon”

Available through Amazon

Click: www.amazon.com  type: how to avoid armageddon

Another aspect of thinking clearly is how we relate to disagreement. When someone disagrees with us, do we see it as a challenge to be met and won at all costs, or as a personal slight that must be firmly righted? This is how most people react to disagreement, whether on a trivial subject or something of definite personal, ideological or professional significance. This is how people have always reacted. It’s a response that’s ingrained in us since infancy. We are taught to stand up for our rights and that also means standing firm on our opinions. Or, if we had been browbeaten by our parents, siblings or peers, we might have subsequently developed a deep resentment to anyone who doesn’t fully acknowledge our opinions, observations or wishes.

But this almost universal response to disagreement is seldom productive and can be highly disruptive. We should learn to see disagreement, not necessarily as something to be combated, but rather as an opportunity to clarify something. Perhaps the other person really knows what he or she is talking about and is able to put us right about something. If that is the case we might have gained something through this other person’s disagreeing with what we had said, and we should acknowledge this, especially if it is something that might help us in our lives. We should always be able to admit that we were wrong and respond with something like: “Thank you for putting me right.”

We should not be worried about losing face, because all too often this concern causes us to lose opportunities for acquiring more knowledge, insight or correcting shortcomings or problems in our own lives. It shouldn’t be seen as losing face – but rather of gaining an opportunity to learn something.

Two of my neighbors happened to plant lawns on their front gardens at more or less the same time, using the same kind of grass. They had both loosened the ground and fertilized it beforehand, and then diligently watered their lawns. Both lawns were about the same size and after three months both had become wonderfully green and luxuriant. But suddenly yellowish patches, which spread quickly, appeared on both their lawns. The neighbors discussed the problem. One neighbor, Maurice, said that he thought that maybe they had watered their lawns too heavily. His neighbor, a contrary sort of guy, immediately scoffed at the idea. “I’ll just stop my dog from peeing on the lawn,” he said emphatically. “That’s all that’s needed!” But Maurice called his lawn supplier, who indeed suggested watering less and also recommended the application of a certain fungicide. Maurice mentioned this to his neighbor who responded by screwing up his face in scorn. Within a few days the yellowish patches on Maurice’s lawn had disappeared and the lawn soon returned to its former fine condition. Noting the effectiveness of the supplier’s advice, Maurice again told his neighbor about the remedy. But the neighbor wasn’t about to admit that he had been wrong in the first place, and also hated taking advice from anyone, least of all Maurice, whom he now resented as a show-off because his grass was greener. After a few weeks, however, when he saw that his lawn continued to deteriorate, he began to water it less. But the deterioration continued and after about four months he called a gardener who suggested the same fungicide that Maurice had used. But by that time it was too late. The damage to his lawn was irreversible.

Had the stubborn neighbor realized at the outset that arguing simply to be contrary and then automatically sticking to his original, mistaken position was silly and self-defeating thing, he would probably have saved his lawn. By arguing stubbornly and being unwilling to admit that someone else was right, he ended up with a mud patch instead. The common habit of arguing stubbornly because it’s hard to agree with someone else is often a clear case of ignoring the truth. That’s the same as pandering to untruthfulness. And its results are seldom good.

If in the course of a discussion, the other person seems to have a point, but we are not fully convinced, we can still continue reasoning with each other. See it as a joint search for correct answers. The discussion should always be done calmly. We might even find that additional discussion will help substantiate our grasp of things. But we should be wary of our own tendencies that might impede our comprehension, whether undue cynicism, pedantry or a limited attention span, and try and spot if the other person harbors similar tendencies. Also, let the other person finish his or her sentences and demand a similar courtesy for yourself. You can also make it clear that this is a very helpful, new way of arguing – a way that aims, not to win arguments, but to find correct answers based on truthfulness. Winning the argument of who is right or wrong should be irrelevant. As the saying goes, “Winning ain’t everything.” It’s finding the truth that counts!

But if we are having a discussion with a very argumentative, contrary type of person, who won’t let us finish our sentences or if even after putting forward our point of view as cogently as possible, it is clear that the other person is immovably stubborn, maybe it’s best to simply drop the subject. Hopefully it’s not a serious issue that needs to be resolved. If it is we will have a serious problem on our hands, which will need to be resolved with insight and great patience. (To be continued)

To order “How to avoid Armageddon” click: www.amazon.com  type: how to avoid Armageddon

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Entry filed under: Blogroll, dangeous lies and halftruths, How to avoid Armageddon, In order to survive, Things not mentioned in the press. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

A basic requirement for clear thinking – 3 A basic requirement for clear thinking – 5

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