Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Understanding vs agreeing

There is a difference between understanding someone and agreeing with them, which will become a sticking point in arguments when one person believes their opinion is a fact. We're likely to fight when I try to say that I understand you, but I disagree, if you think understanding and agreement are the same. If both sides have differing opinions masquerading as facts, neither side will budge, no ground will be gained or lost, and a very large amount of shouting will go on.

This is how a lot of internet flame wars start and how they continue. It is critical to clearly express that you understand your opponent's position, including the underlying assumptions, before stating your own position along with its assumptions.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - In the end, debating is about assumptions.
PPS - I like to start by assuming I am right.


Anonymous said...

I am privy to this information but what if the other person in the argument is not? He/she will think that he is always right and at all times I will be the understanding one. Sooner or later it will become frustrating to me.

John said...

Dealing with someone who thinks they are right just means you need to dig down and find out what they are assuming. Logic is always built on assumptions. If you can both find out what you are assuming, then you can both learn to try out different assumptions temporarily. You'll see where the other person is coming from, and they will see your point of view. You might not come out in agreement, but you won't spend as much time in frustrated shouting matches.