I've mentioned before that often if I find myself in a contentious disagreement with someone close to me, I ask myself the question, "Would I rather be right or would I rather be in relationship?" It's always a good reminder.
Because of that question, I was interested recently when I read further in a Karen Armstrong book I have, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. In one of the chapters, she discusses Socrates and his style of dialogue. Armstrong talks about the competitiveness and aggression found in ancient Greek dialogues and debates. However, she says that Socrates didn't like that model.
"In true dialogue, participants 'must answer in a manner more gentle and more proper to discussion.' The Socratic dialogue was a spiritual exercise designed to produce a profound psychological change in the participants, and because its purpose was that each person should understand the depth of his ignorance, there was no way that anybody could win," Armstrong writes, quoting from Socrates.
In other words, it's more about understanding than it is about winning! What a difference that could make to our discussions and disagreements, right? If we were truly interested in understanding what the other person thinks, why and what investment that person has in that perspective, we would enhance the relationship—and learn things in the process.
I think it's worth a try, don't you?