Sometimes while discussing a topic of disagreement with another, I find myself irritated, but I haven’t been able to determine the cause until now.

Immediately after a claim is stated, which of the following occurs?

  1. Counter-statements are asserted by the other based on what is thought to be understood of the claim.
  2. Questions are asked by the other to ensure comprehension of the claim?

Few can explain broad and deep nuance in the speed of a conversation, and none can address all potential misunderstandings in advance. But often debate consists of statements about what is known, not questions about what is not. Yet, when there is no intention to check our understanding, we are doomed to state and restate what we already know.

Nowadays, when talking to someone about a topic of disagreement, unless they are actively checking their understanding, I simply realize that they do not wish to be open-minded at this moment. If they don’t ask questions, I stop talking. With this heuristic, I no longer find myself irritated.

But I’m flawed too. There was a point in my life when I made this error frequently, and I must ensure that I do not relapse. Doubt what you think you understand, and ask questions before making statements.