August 8, 2006

How to Have a Fair Fight (Conversation, Discussion, Debate)

Over the past week, I have been involved in a rather heated e-mail discussion. I was called a heretic, and I was accussed of holding ideas that I do not hold.

So in the spirit of searching for discussion guidelines, I thought I would try to write down a few ideas that I feel helps the fighting remain fair:

1. Assume the best of the person. When we begin discussing something with someone, we should assume that they are honestly wrestling with the issue and give them the benefit of the doubt. We must assume that they are looking at Scripture and attempting to draw out principles to live by.

2. Recognize the medium has limitations. We are all bound by the limitations of language. Misspeaking is nothing new, and when you add to that the medium of blogging and e-mail, things get worse. This goes back to number 1. We must assume the best of the person.

3. Checking one box does not mean the person has checked all the boxes. We are all guilty of this faux pas. We assume that because a person votes Democrate that they believe Abortion is okay, or because they vote Republican they don't care for the environment. Just because a person holds one belief does not necessitate they hold others. We can say it does, but it does not. This leads to #4.

4. Things, in the real world, do not necessarily play out to their natural conclusions. Logic says that everything must play out to its natural conclusion, but in reality, things do not. (This is not a rejection of logic, only that pure logic does not exist when the creatures using it have emotions, background, and other phsyiological things affecting it.) I can say that we do not live under the Law, promote Grace, and NOT accept a lawless Christianity. (This is a faulty example, but aren't they all.)

The way I define logic is: step A always leads to step B which always leads to step C. Computers are logical. When they begin searching for a file they begin at A and work to the end. Humans have logic, but they are reasonable. Meaning we take logic and add experience and background and emotion and whatever else. When we go to look for something, we think about what it looks like and where it was the last time I saw it. We don't go to the attic and start looking there.

5. Seek to understand the person's point of view. We live in a sound byte world, and we often react to people based on the sound bytes they give us. It is wrong to catagorize a person's stance based on a few random statements. Stephen Covey says, "Seek first to understand before seeking to be understood." This is the foundation for good listening. When we listen to other people we have a better chance of hearing not only the words they use to express and idea, but also the background, the intensity, the emphasis, and the true intent behind those words.

6. Respect the person you are speaking with. This means watching the language we use so that we are not name-calling. It also means we are careful about the connotative meaning of the words we choose. Some words, because of popular use, are caustic in nature. We must be careful of the words we choose because they have more meaning than what Webster gives them--there is connotation.

7. No body ever argued someone into their belief. The most we can do is to state what we believe, discuss the things that lead to that belief, and then make changes based up discussion. When we discuss something with someone we need to listen to their side, understand their point and intent, and then evaluate our own stance. We also need remember that winning the argument is not the intent, but rather discussion and growth.

8. Don't over-generalize. Over-generalization NEVER helps anyone (pun intended). Saying things like "You ALWAYS" or "Pastors no longer" (there is an implied "every" and an implied "always" in this statement. which pastors? where?)

These are just a few thoughts. Have I missed anything?

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