The first thing we typically think of when we hear the word argue is some heated debate between two or more people who hate each other’s guts. One person shouts over the other and nothing is accomplished at the end of it all.
There are plenty of videos and images that seem to paint this picture for us. It’s no wonder we associate the word with what we see all the time. But that’s not what great writers think of when they hear the word.
Impactful writing tends to take the form of having a conversation. Because, whether knowingly or unknowingly, we are all responding to something as we write.
Great writers have these habits (among others) that bring weight to their words, regardless of what their views may be:
- They keep an open mind (without losing their voice)
- They listen well
- They respond honestly
Keeping an Open Mind
One of the most important aspects of writing is being open to hearing worldviews different than your own. Doing so strengthens your thinking and allows for more fruitful conversations.
On a deeper level, it also broadens our comprehensive horizon of the world we think we understand. We often drop the ball, though.
Many of us have our assumptions packed and ready for use at any moment. It’s perhaps how we were raised to think, what we were taught growing up. And it has formed the way we see the world around us.
Sure, we make our responses to what we witness. That’s an intrinsic part of who we are: humans affected by the perspectives of other humans. The question, then, isn’t whether we respond or not; it’s how?
When it comes to writing, the strength of any arguments rests on the writer’s ability to assess a different view. Most of us don’t like this because it challenges what we already perceive.
The simple act of placing yourself in someone else’s shoes seems pointless because you like the shoes you’re in (at least, when it comes to what you know at the moment).
That’s why I love the suggestion to read a variety of books from different perspectives, even if you disagree with it.
The key is not reading with the purpose of finding fault but finding reasons for why they think the way they do. It sharpens any arguments you may have and may even shed light on things you overlooked.
This doesn’t mean you have to give up your voice.
The voices of great writers are normally strengthened because they were willing to put themselves in the shoes of people they may disagree with.
You don’t have to be an expert to do this. You just have to be willing to do more than disagree or agree with something.
And you also have to be open to the possibility that you may be wrong about it before you start the evaluation process.
At some point in our days, we all make arguments. We take our stance on a topic even if it’s about something small. Most of the time, we don’t even realize what we’re doing.
We’re making claims about certain things.
In writing (as well as general dialogue), being able to make a good argument starts with understanding the perspective of the other person to the best of your ability.
Bad arguments stem from preconceived assumptions that are mostly unfounded and prone to stir bad responses, reasonably so.
Sometimes it’s because we’ve held to a particular worldview we’re afraid of challenging. Other times it’s just us being stubborn and refusing to have an open mind.
I’ve fallen in both camps before I realized how my assumptions were affecting other people. Thinking I was the only one right and everyone else was wrong (unless they agreed with me), I didn’t make good arguments.
I’d spew out words with the intention of winning a debate instead of getting closer to the truth we all seek.
That’s the beauty of having a dialogue with someone: you have the opportunity to present examined reasons for why you believe what you do.
There are so many instances of people saying things they haven’t checked or looked into but are still quick to say anyway. That doesn’t make a good argument. It just adds more chatter to the already-loud commotion in society.
If there’s one thing great writers are good at, it’s providing their point of views without diminishing their worth. They value the practice of staying true to themselves while keeping the views they are responding to accurate.
It’s one thing to spew opinionated verbiage at another person without giving their thoughts and opinions the light of day. It’s a completely different thing to listen carefully and then respond with respect and honesty.
Opinions are inevitable. The words you write, on the other hand, are not. You have to choose whether you want to blend in with the crowd or say something that goes against the grain.
Either way, it has to be done with the purpose of enlightening others instead of winning an argument.
Dialogue with no end in mind is just small talk; it has its place, but it doesn’t make you say, “Wow! I never thought about that.”
Just imagine how powerful our words would be if we channeled that mental framework into everything we share as writers — different views adding to the mosaic of meaningful conversations.
Write to share the same old thoughts, and your words will be forgotten just as soon as they were published.
Write to share something new, and your ideas will make an impact on those who read them.
Keep an open mind (without losing your voice), make it a priority to listen well to what others have to say, then respond honestly and respectfully.
Sure, it may take more critical thought. But it makes writing helpful and enjoyable.
Kevin Horton is a photographer, student, modest book-worm, and wanna-be web developer with a new-found love for writing. He writes helpful words about creativity, productivity, and the enjoyably simple life.
’Til next time. Thanks for reading!
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