Depth of Relationships, Friendship, Human Interaction, listening, negative relationships, positive relationships
I have had a few instances of being told I was right. These typically come years after the fact when the acknowledgement is almost meaningless regarding the original idea, issue, or choice. The irony is that the issue discussed years ago is irrelevant, but how the person responded to my idea or concern established the quality of our relationship.
Years of interactions with people through work, social, and personal experiences has taught me that relationships are defined by the quality of respect the two people have for each other. Communication is about sharing information and being correct or not about an issue is secondary to the quality of the relationship. We are not taught that in school, but it is something learned as patterns develop with the people in our social circles.
The way a person responds to our ideas and concerns defines the quality of respect they have for who we are as a person, and that defines the relationship.
A dismissive response is the lowest form of respect to a person. Adults often are dismissive of children, and that is a valid description of the relationship between two adults when one is dismissive or condescending to another person. The classic, “Let’s just agree to disagree” is a great example of a dismissive response. If this is happening in a work relationship it means that your value to that person is nonexistent and that you should be seeking a different work environment.
In a personal relationship it means that you are a pet or child to the person and you should take action to get them out of your life. Once a person treats you as an inferior, others will model that and everyone around you will devalue your relationship with them.
The next lowest form of respect is when someone is deflective or derogatory to you when you express concern about an issue. This behavior can be recognized by responses that begin with or include the following:
“You’ve always disliked. ..” or “You don’t know for sure that…” or “Here you go again…”
The point here is that the person is not responding to your concern, just devaluing you and anything you have to say. It is a close cousin to a dismissive response, but the person feels a need to answer your concern, even though the answer is actually an insult to your intelligence.
Another close relative of the Dismissive Response is the Illogical Response. It is the type of response that has the appearance of a discussion of two people who mutually respect each other; however, the response is often a desperate attempt to suggest Point A is negated by Point B, but in reality Point A has nothing to do with Point B.
An example of this is if Ryan is saying that a school’s quality is on the decline because some of the best teachers in a school are leaving and Barbara counters by saying the school has a great reputation for the quality of education. Barbara’s argument is based on past performance, but Evan’s argument is talking about current and future performance.
The hallmark of any valid discussion is the respect the people involved have for each other. When both people respect each other every attempt will be made to reach a reasonable solution because the relationship is more important than the argument.
Finally, when someone comes back to you years after a discussion and tells you that you were correct, it really is about admitting the lack of respect they had for you, and they are attempting to recognize their error. Never assume that they have found a new respect for you because respect is not a quality that returns once it has been lost.
I’ve often used “Let’s agree to disagree” as a gesture of respect (but I guess I might have been wrong). I would use it when I could see that the debate was either (a) circling (eg. things get repeated), (b) spiraling (eg. other debater starting to employ illogical responses, vitriol, or worse).
“Agree to disagee” seemed to be a way to say “ok, we’ve said our bits, now lets gracefully disengage from this conversation that doesn’t seem to be moving positively forward.” If, on the other hand, I just stopped engaging, then that seems disrespectful (sort of like barging out of the room). If, alternatively, I keep arguing, then it seems like I am badgering always wanting the last word (not too respectful).
If “let’s agree to disagree” is not a good phrase to try to bring a contentious but stuck debate to a civilised end, what technique or phrase do you recommend in that situation?