What are the most productive ways to handle conflict? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Celeste Headlee, Public radio host, author, communication/human nature expert, on Quora:

Let's talk first about what happens to your brain during an argument. When we say that someone is defensive, we are speaking more literally than we realize.

When you start arguing with someone, their brain reacts in the same way it does when they are attacked. The brain puts up defenses and shields and it retreats behind walls. At that point, that person will not really hear what you're saying or respond in a healthy way. The conversation is over and it's best to walk away.

So, the most productive way to handle a conflict is to avoid the argument. While that may seem impossible, it really isn't. The key is to stop focusing on winning. A battle can be won, but a conversation cannot.

A real conversation is one in which there is a mutual exchange of ideas. That means you spend half of the time talking and the other half listening, really listening, to what the other person has to say.

Remember that our brains protect us from all kinds of negative information. Our gray matter makes the world a more comfortable place for us.

That means you may not remember things as they really happened, but as your brain wants you to think they happened. There's a possibility you've got something wrong. So, hear the other person out. Really consider their views and perspectives. You might learn something, and that would be truly productive.

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Published on: Sep 5, 2018