A colleague recently rhetorically asked of me, 'have you ever changed someone's opinion at a dinner party?'
I struggled to answer and, consequently, it caused me to reflect.
When a gathering assembles to socialise, good food, wine and company often fuel topical and free-flowing conversations, which can lead to debate.
The outcome is predictable with tête-à-tête expanding to ridiculous heights, offering irrelevant points to pursue or maintain a line of argument.
Humour and good-natured ribbing also play a part, but rarely have I experienced a situation where opinions or views are changed.
Perhaps, that's more to do with circumstance rather than a lack of open-mindedness.
After several years and hundreds of debates where, considered a sport I thrived, learning a few lessons has taken time.
Over the decades my family has participated in numerous ongoing verbal battles, informed by our parents' life experiences before arriving in Australia. It was an environment that allowed us to practise and hone the ability to frame a view of the world.
The debate team, where formal and structured cogitations ensued, was not for me at school nor University, but I certainly took part in rigorous and passionate impromptu deliberations at home.
My brother and I often found ourselves defending the sportspersonship of the Australian Cricket Team, with our late father offering countless examples to disprove our case and just to provoke, stir, or maybe upon reflection, educate, he supported anyone but Australia.
Pakistan was his go-to team, even though he struggled to recall any playing statistics of Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Azeem Hafeez or Abdul Qadir.
Feebly, we rebutted with the bastardry of Bodyline, relying on quotes from Don Bradman (Gary Sweet) and Douglas Jardine (Hugo Weaving) in the 1984 Australian mini-series of the same name to inform argument.
Considering recent events involving sandpaper, we wouldn't even attempt to run any lines at all should dad still be with us.
Family repartee also eventuated, ironically, regarding topics on which we agreed, with forthright argument allowing us to arrive at more thorough conclusions, former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher and her 'assault' on the rights of the 'working-man' a classic example.
The 1998 waterfront dispute was another with the locking-out of the unionised workforce by Patrick Corporation, citing productivity concerns, the planned use of former military personnel trained in Dubai, and the resolution via the Federal Court and a re-negotiated work agreement, providing fodder for countless hours of dialogue.
... it also provides you with skills to walk away ...
It's not difficult to find a copy of Bastard Boys in our DVD collections, but like all great topics, there were issues we found difficult to reconcile.
Dad had a soft-spot for Qantas boss Alan Joyce who stood down his entire workforce - sometimes Irish loyalty clouds a view.
The ability to facilitate discussion and reach consensus was a skill learned early in my professional career as I found myself thrust into positions of leadership at a young age.
Fortune has frequently been in my favour because, even though bereft of the lengthy experience and wisdom of colleagues, I was able to harness their collective nous to survive and, very occasionally, thrive in various roles.
And while I have always stuck to the adage 'if you're good enough, you're old enough', young people in significant leadership roles are only able to succeed if they are prepared to work hard and smart.
Developing wisdom doesn't mean you lose passion for a cause, nor the ability to have fun, to listen and learn, to express empathy, right a wrong, call-out injustice or shout at ignorance, but it does mean you employ a more considered, tactical and strategic approach ... most of the time.
Importantly, it also provides you with skills to walk away; dismissing unnecessary and non-productive arguments and, perhaps, even the ability to quickly ascertain that you're in a less-than-desirable discussion where calling 'bullshit', while maintaining relationships like our parents once did, delivers a swift conclusion.
So, if we are at a dinner party, enjoying each other's company, and you attempt to start a conversation with 'I'm not ignorant, a sexist, a homophobe, or a racist but ...', don't bother, because I won't to be able to change your mind and, frankly, chatting to the kids would be far more interesting.