Open Minds and Closed Mouths by Jim Stovall

Conversations are pleasant, discussions are interesting, debates areproductive, but arguments are destructive.

The difference between debates and arguments lies in whether you are dealing with the subject at hand or the personalities involved.

Whether it is in your personal or professional life, you will inevitably encounter a difference of opinion. This is not a bad thing. In fact, if you don’t frequently encounter a difference of opinion, either 1) you have no opinion, 2) the people around you have no opinion, or 3) people are not feeling the freedom to express themselves.

In any event, conversation, discussion, and debate are positive.

They can ignite people’ s passions, their creativity, and bring their best ideas to the table; however, once it descends into an argument, there is a lot to be lost and little, if anything, to be gained.

Often, colleagues are put in a position to express differing opinions.

There is a right way and a wrong way to carry on these dialogues.

Here are a few rules for keeping your conversation on a positive plane:

1. Be sure the time is appropriate for a debate.

Don ‘t hijack people in the hall or catch someone rushing off to another commitment. Be sure there is time for a productive discussion.

2. Be sure that the setting is conducive to a good conversation.

It should take place where all of the relevant parties can comfortably come together, and interruptions should be avoided. Whenever possible, non-involved parties should be excluded.

3. Everyone should agree on the matter to be discussed.

Whenever possible, only one subject should be tackled at a time. Everyone should agree on what we are deciding, when the decision needs to be made, and what factors are involved in coming to a positive resolution.

4. Only one person should talk at a time.

Interruptions are threatening and counterproductive when people are expressing opposite opinions. If necessary, establish a magic pen, which everyone agrees must be held in the hand of the individual speaking. No one talks unless they have the magic pen.

5. Agree that appropriate language will be used, everyone will be treated with respect, and the voice level will not be raised.

If someone inadvertently violates this rule, calmly point it out and get back to the subject at hand.

6. Find out not only what people who oppose you feel but why they believe their position is best.

Try to understand their position so you can repeat their argument to them. This will demonstrate respect and create clarity. Remember, in an argument, there are only losers. In a productive debate or discussion, everyone can win.

As you go through your day today, find ways to include the collective wisdom of those around you by encouraging discussion and avoiding argument.

Today’s the day!



Got this a few days ago from my parents. Weird, do they have deja vu?

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