Non-Confrontational Argument

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Carlo Rogers was a psychotherapist.

He couldn't change his clients' dopey ideas by rational argument.

When he tried to prove them wrong, they just became defensive.

So he simply avoided argument --
and the statement of any point of view.

Instead, he merely restated the client's ideas.

He was more than a stenographer in that he tried
to articulate the feelings in their words.

But he did not draw conclusions that went far beyond what was actually said. Because, then the client would resist.

Rogers' approach has been used to help communication
in any emotional situation, including tough negotiations.

A Rogerian Argument has 4 elements.

1. State the opposing view before your own
-- without overt or hidden evaluations.

2. Don't just articulate ideas.
Imagine the context that makes them seem valid.

3. State your own view
including the circumstances and feelings that make it seem valid.

4. Don't show how your opponent is wrong.
Show how his position would benefit by
adopting elements of your position.

Don't Highlight Errors

When you feed back the other person's views, don't
highlight their lack of logic. That's confrontational.

(eg. "So, you want us to pay you more than we can afford.")

Don't Debate, Cooperate

Rogers intended his method to assist in the
cooperative exploration of a problem issue.

In fact, he said that using his technique to win an argument
or change another's mind is a perversion of his thinking.

He was trying to be solution-oriented
but not in the least combative.

So, the restating process, for instance, is not
meant to simply soften up your opponent.

It's supposed to put you in touch with the
complexities of his point of view.

Feminists Find It Gutless

Feminists complain, however, that the Rogerian approach is feminine rather than feminist because it is not assertive enough and too emotionally neutral (unemotional).

Can It Be Irritating?

Sometimes, when I call a company for information, it seems as if the people I speak to have been trained never to say anything oppositional.

I finally have to ask them "Does that mean No?".
To which they refuse to answer "Yes".

It's like interviewing a politician who's been trained to never acknowledge disagreement but merely to state and restate her policy no matter what question is asked.

They seem to have absorbed some of Rogers' technique but perverted it into a verbal judo that allows them to roll with the punches until the other guy gets tired and gives up.

And if you are a bit dull and don't recognize that their code words mean "no", their begrudged tone lets you know that you are pissing them off.

Actually, this might not be Rogerian at all, but it leads one to recognize a resemblance between Rogers and that style of etiquette which considers bringing something unpleasant into the open a matter of bad taste, assuming, rather, that with all decent people it will be simply understood.

Source: Doug Brent Rogerian Rhetoric. See also: Deborah Tannen, "The
Feminine Technique
" (which was condensed into this posting.)

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