Friday, August 12, 2011

Persuasion vs. Understanding

I read an article recently from a woman stunned by the expenditures of a friend's wedding. The author writes about costs, values, priorities, and so forth. She says she won't talk with her friends about wedding expenses because the couple is apparently happy about their plans and comfortable with the associated bills.

The article was about values and priorities being reflected in wedding planning/expenditures. What captured my attention in the writing, though, was values and priorities being reflected in conversations. The author is not comfortable with how much people often spend on weddings, then states that she is "not going to say a word" to her friends because neither party will persuade the other to change perspective. "And since they're happy, the only result I can see from saying anything at all is putting my friendships in danger. So, I'm keeping my mouth shut." It might be considered impolite, and she is "certainly not interested in risking [her] friendships just to talk about money."

As a number of commenters pointed out, the author most certainly was not "keeping her mouth shut" by writing her opinions on a very public website, airing her opinions to the whole world about this couple's decisions.

The other part that caught my attention is the implication that persuasion is the only reason friends might talk about matters in which they see things differently. With that goal in mind, it is no wonder that the author fears a conversation might threaten the relationship.

I'd like to challenge the underlying assumption, though. What if understanding, rather than persuasion, is the primary purpose of such a conversation? (If nothing else, understanding should be sought before persuasion.) I could see talking with friends about what motivates their decisions. Learn in the process what matters to them, and why. Acknowledge their plans, share their excitement, enjoy their happiness. Ask about their hopes and dreams. Seek out what drives their decisions, and how those decisions reflect their fears, values, and priorities.

That could be a really good conversation, not to mention the makings of a true friendship.

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