I was on another forum and someone (probably a mod) posted this. There was a lot of discussion about it, and I found it quite interesting. I'd be curious to see what some of the people on here think (and this seems like it would be something right up Peachy's alley, since he's the ultimate peacemakers ).
Similarities between you and your "opponent" when you're angry:
-You both have strongly held views.
-You both believe that you're right.
-You both believe the other person is wrong.
-You both are afraid of being proven wrong, which makes you defensive.
-You both feel that you have a legitimate reason for getting angry at the other person.
Disputing common excuses for getting angry:
1. "I'm angry because the other person is obviously wrong."
You are NOT angry because you believe the other person said something incorrect. There are plenty of cases in which people say things that are incorrect, but you don't blame or get angry at them. (Example: If a 2-year-old innocently says, "The sky is green", that probably doesn't get you angry.)
2. "I'm angry, because this person is intelligent enough that they ought to be able to understand what I'm saying. It's so obvious."
If what you were arguing about was completely obvious or universal, then there would be no need to debate it. There wouldn't be any disagreements. Either what you're arguing is not obviously true, or the other person is simply unable to accept the obvious.
3. "Well, then if this person doesn't understand what I'm saying, which is obvious, it's because they're intellectually defective or deficient. There's something seriously wrong with them."
That may be true that they're just dumb or illogical. But then, why is it necessary for you to argue with them if you're resigned to the fact that you can't ever succeed? Why get angry? Why not just give up on the argument, and calmly accept that the other person can't grasp your viewpoint?
4. "I can't give up on this argument, because it's really necessary that they know what I do. I can't just let them go around spouting non-truths that are harmful and damaging. I'm angry because it is wrong that anybody should think as they do."
Or to be more precise...you believe that it is wrong that anybody should think as they do. You don't actually know what is right or wrong with complete certainty.
The real reason you get angry:
5. "Okay. I firmly believe that this is how things should be. I live my life by these principles, I think that they're right, and so it makes me angry when somebody else violates them."
BINGO. You're angry because somebody is threatening your worldview. It's a personal threat on you, because it threatens how you define yourself in relation to the world. If you're deeply invested in an idea, then disputing that idea amounts to an assault on YOU as a person.
However, you are confronted with the fact that other people define themselves in terms of completely different beliefs, ideas, and facts. The other person has different premises, or uses some premises to the exclusion of others.
Applying Buddhist logic to the situation:
In Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, when monks debate dharma, they use syllogisms of the following form:
It is [predicate]
Because [mutually accepted reason].
To convince the other person of your argument, 2 things must happen:
1) They must accept the truth of your reason.
2) They must accept that the truth of your reason implies the conclusion.
This is the same as Western philosophy. However, there's another interesting component: prior to debating, the monks have to agree upon a common set of premises. If the other monk does not accept the same premises as you, you are not allowed to debate them. The only time debating with someone is productive is when you can acknowledge a common set of assumptions. If this does not happen, debating is pointless.
Some resulting principles which will prevent needless hostility:
1. The goal of debating is not to prove that you're right. It's to reach a consensus which seems true and right to both people.
2. If someone disagrees with you, don't immediately correct them. Try first to understand why they believe what they do, since your goal is to persuade them using reasons that they already agree with.
3. The process of debating is to identify points on which you agree and disagree; try to generate reasons for points on which you disagree; and to continue until you either infer the same conclusion, or you both accept that your underlying assumptions are too different for you to come to an agreement.
4. If the other person doesn't accept your reasons, and you can't provide reasons for those reasons which they do accept, then the debate is over.
5. If you agree on a commonly shared set of assumptions, then do not argue.