During an argument: A look at Acceptance vs. Understanding

“What you did isn’t right.”
“Well, I don’t see how you just don’t get it.”
“I’m tired of you doing this every time…”
“And I can’t stand you complaining about it…”

Oh, boy.

We’ve witnessed this many times: two mouths trying to push a point of view on deaf ears. It happens at work, at home, in traffic. While each tries to make their best effort to be understood, nothing gets through. Why?  Because both are paying more attention to proving they’re right than to arriving at a solution. But usually a solution doesn’t appear until each has understood the other’s point of view. In most cases it is then – and only then – that we accept whatever they’ve done and thus get closer to closing the issue. But if the ideal outcome of any argument is to reach a resolution that satisfies everyone involved, why is it such a struggle sometimes?  Here’s an important distinction:

Understanding is a result of intellectual integration, and often not really attainable until all the facts are laid out in a way that “makes sense” and pierces through our mental filters or limitations. It happens in the mind and is virtually automatic once all the necessary pieces fit. It’s not as much an effect of conscious will as it is mechanics of the mind. And contrary to common belief, understanding by itself does not actually dissipate an argument.

An overlooked step on the road to resolution is acceptance. It happens in spirit, from our True Self, beyond the mind. It is a choice. It needs no information, explanation, nor justification. One either chooses to accept, or not to, whether consciously or by default. We either accept and carry on with life, or continue to offer (internally or externally) justifications for being upset about what happened. It’s easier said than done, but it’s also as simple as that. We expect the other to understand and accept “the right point of view” – our own – and at times to even offer an apology for their “wrongdoing”. But all the while we are not willing to understand and accept them!  And we know where that leads.

We usually consider the two of these concepts to be just one, but knowing that they are separate gives us much more power. While we normally seek to make the other understand, what we really want is to end the conflict. Choosing to accept is what actually does the job, whether either gets to understand the other or not. Understanding is not a prerequisite for acceptance. Conscious acceptance makes the argument much lighter, saves everyone precious time and energy, and provides all those involved a safe platform on which to discuss their differences openly. It gets us more friends and pleasant experiences.

And here’s a cool tip: we can begin by accepting ourselves. Often we call ourselves stuff that we wouldn’t let anyone else even stammer under their breath. We can instead accept what we’ve done, realize that one way or another we got ourselves into the situation, and learn something new for next time rather than beat ourselves up for it.

“OK, so I did that. Maybe it really was stupid. But now I accept what I did and move on, having learned ______.”

Life gets lighter almost immediately. Again, it’s not necessarily easy, but it’s simple. The more we practice this the better we get at it, and the more automatic it becomes.

And, have you noticed?  By completely accepting someone’s behavior (including our own) as the best thing they could have done based on their view of the situation at that particular time, we are granting them (and ourselves) the freedom to be, which overlaps with one of the most freeing forces in the universe for those who practice it: forgiveness.
Acceptance of another or oneself is a form of forgiveness.

So keep this in mind whenever you find yourself in an argument. Remember that the main idea is to reach a solution, not to prove yourself right. Practice to seek to accept another – regardless of whether you understand – and observe what happens in your environment as well as inside you. You could be surprised at what can appear where a prolonged upset would have otherwise held the best of you.

* * *
Thank you for reading. Please leave your thoughts below!
Carli | Your coach for a life that kicks ass

Curious about coaching with me? Email me here.

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