——When you fight fire with fire you’ll only make bigger flames——
Last week, a group of middle aged men were on campus circling the plaza as they made everyone blatantly aware of their beliefs by shouting out their stances on controversial political issues. Garbed in their “Evolution is a Lie” hoodies, these men took turns rotating positions; one shouting from the vantage point of a rock, and the other two circling around the pathways fielding questions.
From what I understood, their ultimate goal was to persuade people to the way of their God. How effective they were? One can only assume they made more enemies than friends and prompted their opposition to dig their heels in further.
They were quite aggressive in their viewpoints—unafraid of, even hoping to get under the skin of every passerby. Verbal attacks put people on the defensive and escalate aggression, throwing any possibility of a civilized conversation out the window.
Most people who walk by will either ignore them or shout out a one-liner in response, hoping to point out a flaw in their reasoning. This attempt at disarmament is just as ineffective as the other’s attempt at religious conversion.
One side tosses out a fiery statement of opinion only to be met with the fury of another’s own statement of opinion. In an environment like this, each side has an understanding of what they expect to hear, and it’s likely that the only thing they hear is that very thing they expected.
Things escalate quickly because both parties are essentially spewing their own point of views at each other, with little effort to understand the other side.
Fear met with fear begets more fear, and a stalemate of ideas occurs—neither side will budge.
A well crafted question will often be more effective at disarmament than a equally well crafted statement.
A question introduces a feedback loop into mix, making it more of a conversation than a shouting match.
People often fall back on opinionated statements to best convey their point of view, but the presentation of a question can also convey a perspective effectively. The real beauty of the question in this environment is it’s ability to serve as a mechanism to call malarkey.
If someone isn’t listening to your opinions via the statements you’re projecting, it’s difficult to call them out because there are few external indicators. On the flip-side, if someone doesn’t answer your question, it’s easier to call them out because there is more of an external indication. Did they attempt to answer the question or not?
The ideal dialogue between two opposing parties would be representative of a quest for understanding rather than triumph, and questions would be an essential part of the process.
When put on the defensive, is our default to respond with a fiery statement or a well-crafted question? Which default would induce a more beneficial outcome?
Meet fiery statements with fiery statements and the flames grow higher. Meet fiery statement with questions for understanding, and at the very least, you halt the growth of the flames.