Debating or Relating – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From:

“No, no, no.  I called you first, and we talked…then you decided to go out anyways!”

“What??  That’s completely wrong!  You didn’t call me till after I was already out.”

“Really?  How could you be so dumb?  Look I’ll show you my phone to prove it.”

“Sure, let’s see.”

These two people are debating.  They are arguing over who is right and who is wrong.  The argument hinges upon who can remember the facts better.  Have you ever been stuck in this kind of conflict?  Both you and the other person are convinced you are right, and the other person is wrong.  And you are both set out to prove it.

As long as you and another person are debating over whose right and whose wrong you are stuck.  No one wants to be wrong, so both of you will dig in your heels, trying even harder to prove yourself right.  Often you’ll both walk away without ever resolving the issue.  If the issue does get resolved through debate, then one person must have been proven “wrong”.  That person now feels shame and resentment.  And now the relationship, the trust, has been damaged in some way.

Wanting to debate comes from the idea that there should be a “winner” and a “loser” in a fight.  That one person needs to come out on top, and the other person needs to submit.  That there is some absolute truth which one side knows about and the other side is at best ignorant about and at worst is lying about.

Relating is a whole different way of engaging.  Instead of proving whose right and whose wrong, what’s true and what’s false, you simply want to share with this other person who you are.  You want to share with this person your feelings, concerns, and desires as well as hear what is going on for the other person.  When you relate with someone you both acknowledge and respect that you are different people and may have different experiences of the same incident.  And from a mutual understanding of each other you can both find solutions that leave everyone happy.

Wanting to relate comes from the idea that conflicts really can be “win-win” as opposed to “win-lose”.  Everyone’s needs deserve to be met, and can probably be met.  Relating comes from the belief that solutions to issues are found from understanding all sides of the issue, and that each one of us have a glimpse of just one angle on the issue.  So together we can get a full picture of the issue.

Relating looks incredibly different than the opening example.

“I’m worried that you went out knowing that I had asked you to stay in.  And I’m scared that I can’t trust you.”

“I get that you’re worried about being able to trust me, and I’m upset and mad because I want you to trust me.  I really just wanted to go out and have fun…I want to be able to go out and relax with friends without having to ask for permission.”

“I know you want to be able to relax with your friends and I also want you to feel free and not relying upon me for permission.  I would also like though some reassurance and respect because I worry about you.”

The fundamental shift is not about using certain tools or methods over others.  The fundamental shift comes from an inward reorientation from having to be right to wanting to understand. is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.