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Is it Human Nature to Argue?

Man talking from the audience in an auditorium

When we look around at the public conversation these days, it’s rather sobering. Issues have become polarized, with each side becoming more entrenched in their view. Arguing has become more important than problem-solving. And yet the problems we face as a humanity grow larger and more tangled every day. Are we doomed? Is it human nature to argue and fight about everything?

What constitutes human nature?

M. Scott Peck found a humorous way of explaining this in his book, The Road Less Traveled. He was actually talking about how we humans avoid challenge, but the same thing can be applied to how we tend to argue.

The tendency to avoid challenge is so omnipresent in human beings that it can properly be considered a characteristic of human nature. But calling it natural does not mean it is essential or beneficial or unchangeable behavior. It is also natural to defecate in our pants and never brush our teeth. Yet we teach ourselves to do the unnatural until the unnatural becomes itself second nature. Indeed, all self-discipline might be defined as teaching ourselves to do the unnatural. Another characteristic of human nature—perhaps the one that makes us most human—is our capacity to do the unnatural, to transcend and hence transform our own nature.

Yes, arguing is a characteristic of human nature. But it is also in our nature to choose, to “transcend and hence transform our own nature.”

The natural act of choosing

We make choices all the time: Where am I going to sit? What am I going to eat? Who am I going to talk to? What am I going to talk about? What am I going to do when someone voices an opinion different from my own?

See? It’s a choice. I can choose to argue with the person, or I can choose to listen to them. I can choose to find out what nugget of truth this person brings to the table. Because each of us has a piece of the puzzle. Me, included. I don’t have the whole truth; I only see a part of it. I need other people’s views in order to see the whole.

Choosing to listen

This is what consultation is all about: seeking out the truth of an issue, looking at it from all sides, so you can make a wise decision on a course of action. We need these differing opinions. We need different points of view. And when we let go of our own point of view—express it fully and let go of it—we can actually listen to the views of others in a way that encourages them to share their nugget of truth.

The problems we’re facing need wise decisions. And it’s going to take all of us, working together, to make that happen. The good thing is, it’s in our nature to do so. It’s human nature to choose.

Learn more about consultation—check out my book Collaboration through Consultation.

  • Share your views

  • Examine a problem from all sides

  • Chart a wise course of action together

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