Engage in Dialogue before You Argue

Engage in Dialogue before You Argue

We were sitting together, as we do every Saturday, with our voices echoing throughout the house when my father interrupted our usual banters with his serious high-pitched voice, saying: “I would like to make an announcement that is very important for all of us, and I would like to listen to your suggestions on the matter afterward.” He added: “As you know, the end of the school year is approaching and we are looking forward to the summer vacation with passion and enthusiasm, but this year we will not be able to travel anywhere, as we used to do, because I have many work commitments.”

The signs of astonishment were written all over our faces after hearing what my father said. All the ideas and plans we had for our trip and all our hopes were frustrated. We were puzzled and there were a few moments of silence before my brother’s voice interrupted the silence saying: “What then are we going to do in that long vacation?” My father answered: “This is what I wanted to discuss with you, to exchange ideas and arrive at a good decision together.” In an almost inaudible voice, my little sister expressed her frustration at what my father had told us. We all had bewildered looks on our faces when my brother enthusiastically said: “I suggest that we all go to the new resort that has recently opened and spend the vacation there.” My younger brother replied saying: “And I suggest that each of us spends his vacation as he wishes and enjoys it without imposing any opinions on us!”

My brother Muhammad was upset with the way my younger brother replied and lost his temper and they engaged in a verbal altercation, completely forgetting the presence of my father and the required respect for it. Our voices grew louder and we started arguing, each defending his idea and clinging to his opinion. When the discussion became heated, my father decided to break his silence and said angrily: “I wanted this session to be a fruitful discussion of wise opinions, not a battle ground!” Enraged, he left the room, putting us in a state of silence and remorse.

This was an example of a usual family dialogue that turned into a heated argument, which makes us wonder how do we distinguish between dialogue and argument? What is the importance of dialogue in our conversations? What are the actual reasons for its absence? What are the characteristics of an effective dialogue and how to ensure its success?

The Difference Between Dialogue and Argument:

We can say that dialogue and argument share the same meaning, which is the exchange of opinions on a specific topic. However, dialogue is carried out in a polite manner with each party listening to the others, exchanging cultural perspectives, and drawing each other’s attention to points that they may have missed. On the contrary, the dispraised argument is more of a shouting match because it is a dialogue that involves verbal altercation with each trying to convince the others of his opinion even if he uses false evidence to prove his point of view. Thus, a dialogue is an argument, but the question is how do we determine that a given exchange of opinions is a dialogue and not an argument? In a dialogue, the interlocutors are keen to exchange their viewpoints rather than convince one another of their opinion. Also, the interlocutors have two basic features: they know the purpose of the dialogue and the topics under discussion, and they display good manners and politeness, and this is how a dialogue becomes enjoyable and refined.

Dialogue and Its Importance:

Allah, The Exalted, Says (what means): {… and their affair is determined by Shura (consultation) among themselves} [Quran 42:38] Shura (mutual consultation) is a way of life. The old should listen to the young and vice versa until they reach a mutually agreed-upon opinion, and this is the correct behavior. Parents should forget their authoritative status when they engage in a dialogue with their children, and they should know that dialogue is of great importance for the family due to the following reasons:

1- Dialogue ensures interaction between children and their parents, which makes it easier for the child to express his feelings to his parents and disclose to them the problems he may be facing at school. This enables the parents to address problems before they become worse. Conversely, arguments create a barrier between parents and children because the child feels afraid to tell them of what happened to him lest he would be reprimanded.

2- A dialogue aims to build the child’s character because it makes him feel safe and confident, and this protects him from future problems when he continues to engage in dialogue with his parents.

3- Parents benefit from engaging in dialogues with their children in forming perceptions about their ambitions and problems because children are not very good at expressing themselves. The other benefit is that they understand the perception they have of them in their minds, which may be wrong. As they continue to engage in dialogue with their children, the picture becomes clearer and they can rectify the children’s behavior if their perceptions about them are correct, and if they are otherwise, they correct them.

4- Western cultural invasion through the mass media and its adverse effects on the morals and ambitions of our youth. We have heard many stories about teenage girls who got involved in online illicit relationships with young men, and about the girls and boys who threw themselves into bad friendships. Therefore, there must be an ongoing dialogue at home to avoid these problems.

Reasons for the Absence of Dialogue:

1- Some parents hold erroneous convictions regarding parenting, including that parents issue orders and children must comply, and this leaves no room for dialogue between them.

2- Parents spend scarce time at home and long hours at work, and this reduces the chance of having a dialogue with their children.

3- Finally, modern technology that has become available in all homes, and accordingly we find every child isolated from his family and communicating with the outside world, which weakens family ties and lowers the chances for family dialogue.

How to Make Dialogue Successful:

To ensure the success of family dialogue, parents should provide a good quiet home environment that encourages dialogue and choose a noise-free place in the house to hold that dialogue. It is important that the goal of the family dialogue should be to strengthen the relationship between family members, who should be psychologically ready to engage in dialogue, at a time when they are active and free from homework or chores. Because the dialogue involves both old and young family members, the parents should alleviate the tension that may occur during the session.

In conclusion, there are many parents who follow the same parenting methods that their own parents and grandparents used, believing them to be ideal and suitable for all times, but this is not true. They should rather learn more about modern parenting techniques, especially in light of the progressive developments in this field, and they should maintain the dialogue with their children lest they make mistakes that could have been avoided.

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