Engaging in a healthy debate

Photo by Luke Sarazin

I’m a diehard Maple Leafs fan. There isn’t any team I would rather support. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with me. My best friend, for example, is a Montreal Canadiens fan. Now, if you know anything about hockey, you probably know that the Leafs-Habs rivalry is fierce; it’s rooted in years of competition.

When those two teams are on the ice, they absolutely hate each other, and they aren’t afraid to show it. But, there’s also an enormous sense of respect between them. It’s a form of comradery.

My best friend and I would spend hours attempting to convince each other that our team was better. “Why can’t you just be a Habs fan already,” she would cry in vain.

I guess there is a great deal of pride when you see a team so close to home which has managed to  exceed expectations. The Leafs are also the team I grew up watching almost every day. So, you can understand why I have a list of reasons ready to defend my team just in case I have to go up against another hockey fan.

I have used my list on more than one occasion. But, my purpose has been to engage in discussion — here’s what I think, here’s some proof, but what do you think?

I mentioned earlier that a discussion isn’t a personal attack. It’s important to differentiate the two. If you have something to say about someone, say it in their presence.

The last part is critical — you need to truly listen to what the other person has to say. Many of us have such fixed notions about things that we are unwilling to accept other perspectives. It’s good to be passionate, but not closed-minded. We aren’t going to agree on everything. To suggest so would be outrageous.

However, we still need to listen.

We still need to welcome healthy discussion. Am I going to stop being friends with someone just because they like a different hockey team? No, probably not, although the Leafs are a much better team, just for the record. Discussion is a necessary part of reaching a resolution. It allows for different viewpoints. It also allows you to recognize that you can be friends with someone even if they don’t have the same opinions as you.

There’s something powerful about healthy competition. It’s exhilarating, it’s genuine but it’s not personal. Regardless of how hard you try, there are going to be disagreements. People are going to criticize how you feel. Be prepared.

If you express your opinion in a respectful manner and are ready to listen to what they have to say, there is a lot  you will learn. Consensus is overrated. You learn far more from criticism as long as it’s constructive. So don’t go around expecting everyone to agree with you all the time.

Rather, take a minute to consider whether there is any truth to their perspective. If after hearing what they say, you tend agree with them, then you do. However, listening doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with someone.

That is why standing your ground is also very important. You don’t want to be the person who is far too easy to convince. If you truly like Coke more than Pepsi, don’t rest until you have done everything in your power to present your side of the case. Stand by your perspective and don’t be afraid to defend it.

I mentioned earlier that a discussion isn’t a personal attack. It’s important to differentiate the two. If you have something to say about someone, say it in their presence.

Don’t attack their point of view after they are gone. It’s unprofessional and you aren’t giving them a chance to defend themselves. I don’t know about you, but I think the world would be quite a dull place if we all agreed about  everything.

That’s why it’s so important to make your voice heard.

Don’t just accept someone else’s opinion out of fear that they have a higher rank than you. That’s not very useful. If you think what they are saying is wrong, it’s wrong. Remember: the aim isn’t always to win the discussion, but instead to make meaningful progress.

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