Having conversations, not arguments
A few weeks ago, I did a radio show and podcast with Egberto Willies Politics Done Right on KPFT in Houston, Texas. Egberto is from Puerto Rico and calls himself a progressive activist. We probably disagree on some issues. In our 30-minute interview we talked about creating jobs, the environment, fossil fuels and carbon footprint. We did something rare in politics and many media interviews today. We had a conversation. We didn’t shout at each other, attack each other or call each other names. It was an informative show for both of us and his audience. We laughed and had fun. Hopefully the audience found it engaging and entertaining.
Because we had a conversation instead of an argument, we found agreement on the need to bring high-wage manufacturing jobs back to the USA. I learned Egberto is an engineer like me. Another commonality. We both had a sense of the enormity of the global problems we have. We agreed on how important it is to have fossil fuels for energy and feedstock as we transition to other fuels. Egberto is sensitive to the needs of people for dependable affordable energy, jobs and the farmers who will lose royalty payments. There are areas we agreed to disagree on for now. We agreed on an end result. We have different ideas on how to achieve it. With some time together, Egberto and I could probably come up with some creative solutions for the environmental and jobs problems our country is facing.
My friend, Hall of Fame speaker and author Willie Jolley, has been married for 36 years to his wife Dee. They have not had an argument for 33 years. Willie and Dee say communication is the key. They learned to deal with little issues before they become big issues. They teach couples to think before they speak in a disagreement. Words are powerful. They can uplift or destroy. A personal attack once said can’t be unsaid. We should always treat our spouse with respect and love, listen and understand before responding.
Willie and Dee share what they have learned at 9 p.m. every Monday on Facebook Live. The program is called ‘Make Love, Make Money, Make it Last!’ They were a blessing during the pandemic. How did your marriage survive the pandemic? Lynnda and I found new ways to come together like working puzzles. We tried to help others. We communicated regularly with family and friends. Since our church couldn’t meet in person we did a weekly Bible study on Zoom. We learned helping others also helped us. It gave us purpose.
We are all under additional stress. During the pandemic there has been an increase in domestic violence and suicide. In any relationship we never agree on everything. Willie says we can agree to disagree or disagree without being disagreeable. To avoid an argument Willie and Dee talk about the 4 Fs: Be Friendly, Be Frank (honest), Be Fair (listen), Be Focused (think win-win).
If we keep an open mind and listen, we learn things. Sometimes we learn we are wrong.
This process is also helpful with our children, friends, co-workers and in business. It can help us to solve some of the big problems we have as a nation and a planet. Shouting at each other, name calling or character assassination never moves us closer to solving a problem. It shows we are weak and so is our argument. Our argument, idea or method should stand on its own merits or logic. We can choose to take the focus off us and focus on the needs of others. The late sales expert Zig Ziglar said, “We can have anything we want if we first help enough other people get what they want.”
By staying in discussion mode and having a dialogue we can search for a common goal or vision. This works in all relationships, business and even solving world problems. We can agree on the goal and disagree on the method to achieve it. Agreeing on the goal or the vision gives us the incentive to find a solution. The solution can be a hybrid of possible solutions. Many times, in a good dialogue we find a solution that is different and better than any previously proposed.
A few years ago, I was planning a ski vacation to Colorado with Lynnda, our daughter who lives in Maryland and her husband. Lynnda doesn’t ski. She was adamant, “I’m not going anyplace cold.” After discussion we agreed the goal of vacation isn’t the place or activity. It is about family and being together where we can relax and recharge from work. Lynnda and I went to Florida. Dannielle and her husband went skiing in Colorado. We all got together a couple of months later for a long weekend in Virginia Beach. We all won.
Egberto and I agreed on the need to create good jobs for people in the U.S. and give our young people hope for a bright future. We agreed on the need to act on the climate issue now. We can’t wait another 10 years. We agreed products people in the USA use and consume should be made here rather than overseas. This creates jobs in the USA and lowers global carbon footprint. We know we disagree on details. Since we agree on the vision and are able to discuss and share ideas, given time we can probably find solutions we agree on. All things are possible if we believe, treat each other with respect and dignity and are willing to effectively communicate. Working together we can solve any problem we choose.
Greg Kozera, email@example.com is the director of marketing and sales for Shale Crescent USA. He is a professional engineer with a master’s in environmental engineering who has over 40 years’ experience in the energy industry. He is the author of four books and numerous published articles.