Empty Debate vs. Productive Conversation

Difficult conversations don’t have to turn into arguments


Everyone has, at one point or another, debated someone and felt like the other person just didn’t understand. Discussions can easily become arguments when one is confronted with an opinion or idea contradicting their own. Giving into this tendency is a disservice to all parties. Even if you don’t realize, listening to understand is the goal of discussing any idea.

Not all conversation is productive. When someone feels attacked for their ideas or opinions, they’re likely to become defensive and lose sight of logic. Both parties wind up talking at each other and not to each other, recirculating points with urgency.

To skirt an argumentative debate, allow the other person to finish their thought before you speak.

Processing what the other’s saying during that pause keeps the tone of the conversation nonthreatening. Ask clarifying questions like, “Can you explain that?” or, “Why do you think that?” Productive discussions aren’t aggressive or intended to assert one idea or opinion over another.

It’s much easier to effectively communicate if you speak calmly, supporting your ideas with evidence and reasoning. Shouting is likely to make the other person feel defensive; their reaction might be to shout back or close themselves off.

Arguing for the sake of it is pointless. Remember that it’s natural to leave a discussion agreeing to disagree. A thoughtful approach that challenges opinions and ideas other than your own, and allows the other person the same opportunity, is the most productive way to converse.