Exploring Other People’s Views

In this section we are going to talk about how you can work together with someone even if they don’t seem to be willing to change their mind by agreeing before disagreeing and exploring their view with challenging but fair questions.

Before continuing make sure to do the exercise.

Exercise-Exploring Other People’s Views

The Problem: Arguing Without Really Listening

We discussed in the last section the dangers that come when people look to disagree. Because you are on “opposite sides” you feel you have to find fault in everything the other person says or else you are “losing ground”. One negative consequence of this is you waste time arguing with things that are true or lose the benefit of those insights.

Another negative consequence is that people feel increasingly defensive and like it doesn’t matter what they say because you’ll disagree no matter what!

When people feel this way you’ve already lost the argument.


The Solution: Explore Their Views

Let’s suppose you’re arguing with someone who hasn’t taken this workshop and they don’t realize you’re really on the same side working towards a common goal. What’s the quickest way to get on the same side? Get on their side! How do you do this without just agreeing with them?

Step 1: When you respond to someone’s point, say everything you agree with first.

  • Don’t waste your energy: Don’t argue about something just because the other person said it. If you agree, say you agree so you can focus on what’s really important. If you don’t know how you feel about something, say you don’t know how you feel about something, and say “I’ll agree for now” or “let’s save that for later” or ask about it.
  • Show goodwill: This shows them you’re willing to agree and that maybe you’re not so different after all. This will make the other person less likely to think you’re just too different.

Step 2: Tentatively accept what you disagree with.

  • Think of their ideas as a thought experiment: What would have to be true for this to be true? What would it mean in the world if this were true?

Step 3: Make sure you understand.

  • Ask about definitions of key words: You used the word “freedom” a lot. What did you mean?
  • Explain how you understood what they said and ask if you’re right.
  • Be genuinely curious!

Step 4: Make your reasons for disagreeing into questions.

  • Instead of saying “I think your view would lead to ridiculous results in the following situation.” Ask “How would your argument apply in this situation?”
  • Instead of saying “This fact completely contradicts what you’re saying.” Ask “I’ve heard that this is true, what would that mean for your argument?”

Questions to think about

  • When is it a bad idea to take the other person’s side?
  • How do you think people will react if you do this?

Go to Section 8: Staying On Track.