How To Convince Someone That They Are Wrong
(Today’s post is authored by Jim Ferrell. Jim is the Managing and Founding Partner of The Arbinger Institute, an organization that has worked with thousands of individuals and organizations and helped them to transform their effectiveness and performance.
Jim’s post is a lesson on dealing with conflict, and is a lead-in to the re-launch second edition of their book The Anatomy of Peace. Enjoy the post, and please check out The Anatomy of Peace, one of the most profound books on resolving conflict ever written.)
When we moved into our home, my wife and I had different plans for the back yard. I measured out where the basketball court needed to go, and she scoped out where the garden needed to go.
We wanted them in the same place.
For over a month we made our competing arguments. My opinion was clearly the better one, and I grew increasingly frustrated that she couldn’t see it. The more I tried to convince her that I was right, however, the more convinced she became of her opinion. And the more she tried to convince me that she was right, the more obvious it became to me that she was mistaken. We were at an impasse.
Because of her! Argh! (My view.)
But I tired of the fight and gave in. “Ok, it’s not worth all this to me,” I finally said. “Go ahead and put your garden there.” (“Your garden,” notice.)
So she began to do that. This upset me—that she would go ahead and do what I said she could do. It felt so presumptuous.
One day, after she had been working to prepare the space for the garden, I couldn’t keep my irritation bottled up any longer. “I’m sorry, Honey,” I said. “You’re not going to like this, but that’s where the basketball court needs to go.”
I’ll never forget what happened next. She looked at me for a moment, slightly cocking her head to the right. She looked right into my eyes, to such a degree that it felt like she was looking through me. And then she said it—the thing that made me see that I had been wrong all along. She said, “Okay.”
That was it—“okay.”
In response, I suddenly found myself saying, “Well, let’s not be hasty here.” And then I went out and looked at the yard again. Suddenly it seemed different to me. I saw other possibilities for the basketball court, and I could understand why my wife wanted the garden where she did. I reached a different opinion. She could have the garden where she’d started it—I was okay with it, and I wasn’t caving in anymore. Other options for the basketball court seemed at least as good to me as what I had been arguing for all that time.
Why? Why had I wasted a month of my life arguing for something that ended up not really being what I wanted? And why did my wife suddenly get what she wanted in the moment that she was willing to set her want aside? Why did she convince me that I was wrong only when she wasn’t trying to?
These and other puzzles are answered in The Anatomy of Peace, by the Arbinger Institute. An international bestseller, which has recently been rated as one of the twenty best leadership books of all time, The Anatomy of Peace is being re-released in a new Second Edition. You can read about the new edition of the book here.
Jim Ferrell is a Managing and Founding Partner at the Arbinger Institute, the organization-author of the bestsellers Leadership and Self-Deception and The Anatomy of Peace, which teach concepts and models designed around the idea that seeing people as people can dramatically impact the results we achieve in organizations, in relationships, and in the world. Click here to learn more.