The Opposite of Arguing Is Questioning

cannons on a ship of war
Arguing, more formally known as war, is based on protecting, defending, and destroying outside threats. But it is not so effective long term.

Arguing Is a Vicious Cycle

We all get caught in the cycle of arguing. It can be friendly arguing, very subtle arguing, or strong, vicious arguing. But it all comes down to some form of power struggle. I think I’m right, you threaten me, so I must defend myself stubbornly.

When I’m arguing with someone, I can’t listen to them too much. I might get sucked into their argument and get carried away. I could lose my stance. I could be destroyed. I must keep saying the same thing over and over in different ways, constantly checking to be sure there are no cracks in my walls of defense.

Arguing Is a lot of Work

The mind stays very busy arguing with someone, and it can go on for a very long time. It uses a lot of mental energy, which becomes unavailable for other tasks in daily life. No wonder we feel tired, angry, depressed, unable to be enthusiastic when we’re arguing. We are constantly on the defensive (or the attack), and planning our next move.

The problem is that arguing tends to lead to more arguing. Family feuds go on for generations, and political wars seem to never end. The more I dig my heels in, the more the other person digs their heels in. Even if one side “wins,” there is usually a distance and wariness of the other side that remains afterwards. And this sets the stage for future arguments, so the cycle continues.

Arguing Must Be Transcended, Not Won ​

The only way I have experienced true freedom from arguing is by moving beyond it. It is not by winning that I achieve security, but by listening, and joining, and compromising. And that can only happen if I can somehow open my mind a little wider. One of the ways that I am able to open my mind to do this is by questioning.

When I put aside my stance for a bit and ask the other person to say more about their stance, something starts to shift in me. I stop seeing them as the enemy, and start seeing them as a friend with a different perspective. I become more open. I find myself wanting to be educated in this different perspective. 

Ironically, when I do this, I often feel more secure about myself and my point of view as well. There is less need for defense because there is an acknowledgement in me that there is truth on both sides. That gives me security about my own point of view. I start trusting in life itself, in truth itself, regardless of which side it falls on. This feels like surrender to life, not defeat in battle.

Asking someone to explain their opposite point of view and really listening delivers me to a place beyond arguing. A place of peace.

And I Can Question Myself Too

It is freeing to question the other person—asking them to explain their perspective further—instead of arguing against them without listening. But I can also question my own thinking to consider if it is really that solid. When I do, I open the door for compromise and understanding within myself. I do this most frequently using The Work of Byron Katie, a simple way to question what I think.

Questioning Is Opening

When I question myself, or ask questions of others, the effect is the same. Instead of defending, teaching, or controlling, I switch to a different mode, a more humble mode. The mode of learning. And that one little switch makes all the difference.

Now, I am open to learning what I don’t know. Now, I’m open to being wrong. Now, I am not concerned with wining or losing, I am interested in finding more of the truth. Suddenly, I want to look at it from all sides. And that feeling makes my heart open again. 

If you like to experiment with opening your heart in this way, I’d love to have you join us January 10-24 for Two Weeks of The Work, a personalized retreat at my house in British Columbia, or join us for my online course, The Work 101, starting Jan 13.

Have a great week,
Todd

Excerpt from I Need Your Love, Is It True? by Byron Katie. In this quote, someone (not Katie) is reporting their experience doing The Work:

The House Gets Cleaned or Not 
My husband doesn’t enjoy cleaning the house, and when I used to get fed up with him, I would think that I’d have to end our marriage and find someone else who would honor me and support me better. Now I am more committed to my marriage then ever before. The house gets cleaned or not. I realized that it doesn’t have to be perfectly clean at all times. It never was perfect anyway. Before, it wasn’t perfect and we had lots of arguments; now, it isn’t perfect and I have peace.” 

Further reading: Sherlock Holmes and The Work of Byron Katie

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