It’s a lost art. So many are caught up in a need to oppose and conquer. We have not improved the world by converting people to our way of seeing things, we have only manipulated their perspective to temporarily align with ours. But over time their view will develop nuances ours doesn’t have because ultimately their perspective is not ours and never will be; they are them and we are ourselves.
Science is like a language we’ve all agreed to use for planning public policy, but everything else is personal opinion. Everyone sees things from a slightly different perspective, meaning that in a healthy world we will most certainly find many people that will disagree with us. That’s no indication anything is wrong.
Sometimes other people will be right, sometimes you will. And your idea of right or winning will change over time. There is no way to gets it all 100% right, all the way through. Not even close. So next time you’re arguing, just keep in mind that maybe you’re the one that’s missing something. That humility will bring you closer to people.
Take today and search for an opportunity to feel your resistance to an idea, and then understand that your resistance is created by your unaccepting thoughts about their idea. That’s natural–those aren’t ideas that you feel are compatible with you. But that’s a much different thing than saying they aren’t compatible with the other person’s way of being.
You’ll feel it, maybe in your jaw or stomach or chest. A desire to react. A sense of resistance. A rise to do battle. Note that feeling and check in with what idea you don’t want to be in a room with. Very rarely will these ideas have much material impact on your life, but note how married to those ideas you are. Indeed your very identity emerges from them much like a detailed piece of art emerges from the dots in pointillism.
Your arguing ego is nothing more than an identity that emerges from your current set of beliefs, much like these dots make up this image. Over your lifetime the dots will move as you grow and change, and that will change who you believe you are unless you learn to see past your own thoughts.
Note that your thoughts exist only in your consciousness. Note that they have no existence until you enact them into behaviour. Note that you can let an idea exist, allow it to pass through you, and then let it go and you will feel fine. In fact, you’ll very likely feel much stronger than you would if you’d entered an argument and won it.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.