During today’s indulgence in YouTube-hosted business advice, I received an excellent bit of wisdom from the ever-charming Marie Forleo. She stated that we should not be afraid to sacrifice “short term revenue for long term gains.”
This advice resonates when it comes to communicating with other people. So often, we are focused on the short-term “revenue” – which I’ll call “wins” – in our conversations and interactions. These wins are those little quips, digs, or snappy comments that give us the feeling that we’ve gained a rung on the argumentative ladder. These are intoxicating moments where we think “gotcha!” Maybe the dig made the other person acquiesce to our point of view. Maybe the other person didn’t say much at all after that and the argument, debate, or conversation stopped.
Behold, the short-term win! But did you actually win, and if so, what was it you gained?
Did the dig, the quip, the gotcha moment cause the other person to understand your point or your side? Did it help drive you towards the goal of the conversation or increase your understanding of the topic at hand? Or did it just cause the conversation to end?
Often, our communication goals can be rather long-term. Sometimes, the thing we hope to resolve in a short encounter actually takes a considerable amount of time to work through. In the real world, productive arguments are less like a political leadership debate and more like an ongoing negotiation. You give a little, you get a little, and as the negotiation pans out, everyone usually comes out ahead. That is the long-term gain.
The difficulty here is that the negotiation approach inherently takes time, compromise, and the suspension of our ego. We want to win; it feels so damn good to win! But it is very likely that the short-term win created a new tense dynamic in the conversation that actually derails your end goal.
When hashing out differences with someone else, keep things in perspective. Do you want to harangue them into a corner, shame them into silence, to belittle them into admitting you are right? Or would you rather get them to see where you are coming from, explain their own position, and then have the two of you come out of the encounter with a better solution – or at least a richer understanding of the issue?
I’m willing to bet it’s the latter.