Going from “I bought it because I liked it!” “But you’ve already got ten of them!” to “Hey, I like her cooking!” “Yes, Bertie, but does your mother have to bring you lunch to work every day?” is all too familiar. Two zealous mouths trying to jam a point of view into plugged ears. It happens at work, at home, in family reunions. While each tries to make their best effort to be understood, nothing gets through.
Why? Both are paying more attention to proving they are right than arriving at a solution. But you do not usually defuse a squabble until at least one person has understood the other’s point of view. In most cases it is then—and only then—that you accept whatever their point is and get closer to closing the issue. But if the ideal outcome of any argument is to reach an agreement that satisfies all, why is it such a struggle?
Here is the deal: an argument will not end as long as no understanding equals no acceptance.
Understanding is a result of intellectual integration, and often, is not attainable until all the facts are laid out in a way that ‘makes sense’. It happens in the mind and is virtually automatic once all the necessary pieces fit, and pierce through our mental filters and limitations. But understanding will not happen unless those pieces are part of the mix and fit into a logical sequence that the conscious, linear mind can digest. It is not so much an effect of conscious will as it is a mechanism of the mind. Contrary to what some may say, understanding by itself does not actually dissolve an argument.
An overlooked step on the road to resolution is acceptance. It happens in spirit, from your True Self, beyond the mind. It needs no information, explanation, or justification. It is a choice. One either chooses to accept, whether consciously or by default, or not. You either accept and carry on with life, or continue to offer, internally or externally, justifications for being upset about what happened. It is easier said than done, but it is also that simple. You expect the other person to understand and accept ‘the right point of view’—your own—and, at times, to even offer an apology for their being so wrong. But all the while you are not willing to understand or accept them. You know where that leads.
People usually consider these two, distinct processes—understanding and acceptance—to be only one when it comes to arguments. Knowing that they are separate gives both parties much more power, not over each other, but together. While you may normally seek to make the other person understand, what you really want is to end the conflict. Choosing to accept is what actually does the job, whether either side gets to understand the other or not. Conscious acceptance happens by choice, even in the face of not understanding the other’s sucky blabbering which makes no sense. It makes the argument much lighter, saves everyone precious time and energy, and provides those involved a safe platform on which to openly discuss their differences. It creates more friends and pleasant shared realities. So, in other words: understanding is not a prerequisite for acceptance.
And here is a cool tip: you can begin by accepting yourselves, even if—and especially when—you can not get your heads around something you did. This, of course, requires you to first admit that you did something that you are not happy with. Often you can call yourselves things that you would not let anyone else even stammer under their breath. You can, instead, accept your own blooper, realize that one way or another you got yourselves into the situation, and learn something new for next time, rather than beat yourselves up for it.
“OK, so I did that. Yes, it really was stupid. Now I’ll own it, move on, and I learned __________.”
Life gets lighter, almost immediately. It is not necessarily easy, but it is simple. The more you practice this the better you get at it, and the more automatic it becomes. How you treat yourselves is the way you treat everything and everyone beyond your skin. Inside is a great place to start, then you will be much better able to extend that courtesy to others.
Have you noticed? By completely accepting someone’s behavior, including your own, as the best thing they could have done based on their view of the situation at that particular time, you are granting them, and yourselves, the freedom to be, which overlaps with one of the most freeing forces for the spirit: forgiveness.
Acceptance is a form of forgiveness.
So, keep this in mind whenever you find yourself in an argument. Remember that the main idea is to reach a solution, not to prove yourself right. Forcing yourself to prove your point over another is the problem. Practice to seek to accept—regardless of whether you understand—and observe what happens around, as well as inside you. You might be surprised by what can appear where otherwise a heated argument would have had the best of you, both.
—Photo Credit: Flickr/David Shankbone