Many years ago, I was sitting in a meeting with two colleagues. We were discussing something technical and the conversation got very heated and very loud.
As I sat there and listened to both sides of the argument, I started laughing. First, it was just to myself, but as the argument bloomed, so did my laughter. The debate quickly subsided and the exasperated eyes of my colleagues fell upon me.
You can probably hear their judgement. “What are you laughing at?” They glowered at me, waiting for an explanation.
In the moments that followed, I quickly sought an escape – a way to quickly defuse the situation.
“You guys are like an old married couple.”
Believe it or not, that worked. Tensions started to ease.
“You aren’t bothering to listen to each other. You are on the same side of the argument.”
And, in fact, they were.
Both people were so worried about saying their part, about being heard, and about being right, that it didn’t matter what the other was saying. They simply weren’t listening.
With this comes the admonition to sincerely listen. If you think of an absolutely brilliant reply, write it down or let it go. If it’s that good (or if it’s still relevant to the conversation), it will come back later. Don’t force it…besides, if you are listening close enough, you might find someone else arguing your point for you.