To End A Conflict, Don’t Argue More Passionately. Yield


To End A Conflict, Don’t Argue More Passionately. Yield

Have you ever noticed that arguments (not the reasoned type, but the conflict type) are fruitless? Each side says something about their perspective, then the other says something in response, nobody listens. The structure of this type of argument is like a tennis match. The ball gets volleyed back and forth across a stubborn dividing line.

Arguments end when one side retreats, or when someone decides that arguing isn’t productive.

Have you ever replayed an angry argument in your mind after it ends? Do you replay to understand what the other person (or group) had to say more clearly, or do you rehearse your next argument with greater conviction? Do you drum up more passion, so you can “win” the next round? For most, you rehearse to return and argue again, stronger, louder, angrier.

And the further you go against from the viewpoint of the “other side,” the further the other will go against your “side.”

This is how arguments work. This is how conflict is perpetuated.

What happens when you yield instead? What if you yield the floor and let the other one talk? What if you yield power and let the other person have a little? What happens when, instead of rehearsing to return and argue another day, you sit and ponder why the passion of the other is so strong? What if you try to understand? What if you let go of your desire to “win” and seek to connect instead?

I mediate a lot of family arguments in my clinic. Every argument is exhausting and unproductive. Every point invites a counterpoint. With each turn, the tensions increase.

Progress toward resolving conflict comes when a bridge is built between two sides: when someone stops fighting and seeks to understand. Building that bridge is always my goal when mediating conflict, but bridging the divide doesn’t require a referee. You can resolve arguments without the help of a third party, if you’ll just stop trying to win.

Before I am subjected to arguments about yielding, let me say that No, I am not referencing cases of abuse, bigotry, or hate. You cannot yield to someone who hates or abuses you. That wouldn’t be safe.

But what about someone you love? Can you yield the floor to someone like that? Can you seek to understand their passionate position on fairness? Or their rant about the importance of hard work? Or their anger flare-up about respect? Can you seek to understand what they fear? What they believe they have to protect by shouting in disagreement with you?

Yielding doesn’t mean giving in. It doesn’t mean feeling like you aren’t allowed to have boundaries. It doesn’t mean agreeing. To yield means not shouting back. It means changing the rules to try and find resolution, rather than trying to win. Because as soon as someone stops fighting, the fight is over. There are no longer 2 sides. There is only one stubborn goat left trying to headbutt the air.

Posted on May 6, 2019 .