Three Powerful Words
Three Powerful Words. Have you ever found yourself in a heated discussion with a friend over some topical issue….global warming, gun control, entitlements? There are plenty of controversial subjects to choose from today and most make for exciting debate.
(By the way, I hope you answered “yes” to that question. I hope that you do engage in energetic discussion with friends. Life is short. Don’t be afraid to embrace honest debate with friends. When you do, though, try to be open-minded1. Avoid making it personal.)
What three powerful words? The three powerful words are, “I don’t know.”
Most of my friends are intelligent and well meaning, even those who self-identify as conservative. But sometimes, despite the best of intentions, our words start to be used as weapons designed to degrade and hurt, rather than to enlighten and inform. If you sense the drift in that direction, step back and say, “I don’t know. You could be right but please explain how that ….”
Doing this will achieve two things.
First, the tension of the moment will have been defused. You will have pulled back from growing hostility and turned the conversation back to a more civil and constructive tone.
Second, you will have established a solid platform of intellectual objectivity from which you will be able to continue the discussion. Anything you say from here on will be all the more credible having just calmly invited the other party to clarify his position.
Of course, none of this will do you any good if your underlying argument is based on pure rubbish. If that is the case, good luck!
1 See the letter “O” in the Young Adult version of my Responsible Workbook Series.