Do not argue


Us humans have the tendency to solve our differences by arguing, and many times, depending on how inflated our ego is, we strive to crush our opponent so that we may leave the table, the room or wherever we are, as heroes, while the other person shrinks red with rage, even angrier for having lost the argument.

We normally argue due to an issue of self-esteem, as we want to be right when we believe that we should be acknowledged, and we want to defend ourselves from attacks from others, be it comments, questions, insinuations or refutations of what we have said. But, is it really worth it to argue?

I read an anecdote in the book “How to make friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie, in which he said that, at a banquet he attended as a guest, the host said a famous phrase quoting the Bible as the source. Dale, who knew for a fact that the phrase came from somewhere else, had the audacity to publicly contradict the host of the event. Finding himself cornered and contradicted, he engaged in an argument with Dale to prove that the phrase indeed did come from the Bible like he had said. After the tug of war, one of the people sitting with Dale kicked him in the leg under the table and said, “No Dale, our host is right, that phrase is from the Bible.“

The argument ended here, and upon leaving dinner Dale asked his friend, “How could you say the phrase came from the Bible, knowing perfectly well that it didn’t?”. To which his friend said, “Look, we came as guests to a celebration in which you have put the host on the spot in front of everyone. Were you to continue in that direction, not only would it have got worse and worse, but you could never have broken that spiral since you were both convinced that your source was the right one, and you would have made an enemy just so you could prove that you knew more than he did. Is it worth it?”

The truth is that you can never really win an argument, because if you win by imposing your arguments by force, speaking louder, shouting more, or giving more and more reasons as to why you’re right, so that your opponent, in the end, has no choice but to bite their tongue, you’ll probably come out with your head high and completely discharged, but you’ll have managed to humiliate the other person, making them look bad in front of the other attendees and, of course, very rarely will you have managed to win them over, but rather you’ll have earned their rejection and grudge for a long time. Do you consider this a victory?

Accepting errors, disarming the opponent

There are much more subtle ways to make people admit you’re right without hurting anyone’s feelings. It’s basically about winning the opponent over to your way of thinking or your reasoning. To do this, nothing better than disarming them from the beginning by admitting that perhaps they are right and that you may be wrong, but that you simply want to be sure and check other sources.

Imagine what Dale’s argument would have been like if he had said: “Well, I may be wrong, my dear friend, but I would like to check the source by consulting the book, as that way I will learn something new, and know that what I said was not right.”

His adversary would have already been left without a wall against which to crash and refute, and he would probably have graciously agreed to check the Bible to see if the sentence was there like he said. Seeing that it wasn’t, assuming Dale was right, he could have just said: “Well, let’s look at this other place and see whether it’s from there”. Thus, the other person would obviously have “lost” the argument, but without any emotional harm or hurt feelings.

Therefore, before you start arguing about something, accept that you may be wrong, thereby disarming your opponent; invite them to verify your point of view by means of facts rather than screaming. Do not try to impose on anyone a way of thinking that you know they will not accept when arguing, whether in public or in private, because our ego and self-esteem will not allow us to declare ourselves defeated in such situations. If you want to win all arguments, simply do not argue.

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