Asking Others about Their Experiences Helped End a Debate

Today I had a debate with someone. We have different perspectives on an issue and how to resolve it. They feel strongly about one approach. I feel strongly about another approach. Both of us have our reasons—but neither of us has experience with the issue. I realized we were both debating from the vantage point of inexperience and likely wouldn’t resolve our differences. I suggested we get more perspectives from credible friends who’ve navigated this issue.

We picked up the phone and called a few friends. We explained that we were debating an issue we were inexperienced in and wanted perspective from experienced people. We asked them if they’d had to deal with this issue (they all had), how they resolved it, why they resolved it that way, and what they’d learned (good or bad). We were careful to not ask anyone if my perspective or my friend’s perspective was right. And we didn’t ask them how we should resolve the issue. Our focus was on their experience.

What we learned from these few phone calls helped us see the issue from the perspective of experience, which uncovered blind spots. Our debate went from unwillingness to compromise because of strong feelings anchored in ideology to productive conversation that led to a compromise.