I have always been talented in the area of arguing. When I was a young child my grandmother heard me in a heated argument outside and rush to keep it from becoming a fight. When she turned the corner she found me alone playing with my toys. She asked me who I was playing with and why they left. My response was I was by myself, no other children were outside, it was just me. She found that I would enter arguments and then argue both sides. One of the blessings of being an only child. Because of this experience most of my life I was encouraged to become a lawyer or salesman. Unfortunately, this instinct that is so natural is actually the wrong manner in which we should build friendships or get teams to achieve a vision.
Nine times out of ten, an argument ends with each of the contestants more firmly convinced than ever that he is absolutely right.
You can’t win an argument. You can’t because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it. Why? Well, suppose you triumph over the other man and shoot his argument full of holes and prove that he is non compos mentis. Then what? You will feel fine. But what about him? You have made him feel inferior. You have hurt his pride. He will resent your triumph. And— A man convinced against his will, Is of the same opinion still.
As wise old Ben Franklin used to say:
“If you argue and rankle and contradict, you may achieve a victory sometimes; but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent’s good will.”
So figure it out for yourself. Which would you rather have, an academic, theatrical victory or a person’s good will? You can seldom have both.
The Boston Transcript once printed this bit of significant doggerel:
Here lies the body of William Jay,
Who died maintaining his right of way—
He was right, dead right, as he sped along,
But he’s just as dead as if he were wrong.
You may be right, dead right, as you speed along in your argument; but as far as changing another’s mind is concerned, you will probably be just as futile as if you were wrong.
In an article in Bits and Pieces, some suggestions are made on how to keep a disagreement from becoming an argument:
Welcome the disagreement. Remember the slogan, “When two partners always agree, one of them is not necessary.” If there is some point you haven’t thought about, be thankful if it is brought to your attention. Perhaps this disagreement is your opportunity to be corrected before you make a serious mistake.
Distrust your first instinctive impression. Our first natural reaction in a disagreeable situation is to be defensive. Be careful. Keep calm and watch out for your first reaction. It may be you at your worst, not your best.
Control your temper. Remember, you can measure the size of a person by what makes him or her angry.
Listen first. Give your opponents a chance to talk. Let them finish. Do not resist, defend or debate. This only raises barriers. Try to build bridges of understanding. Don’t build higher barriers of misunderstanding.
Look for areas of agreement. When you have heard your opponents out, dwell first on the points and areas on which you agree.
Be honest. Look for areas where you can admit error and say so. Apologize for your mistakes. It will help disarm your opponents and reduce defensiveness.
Promise to think over your opponents’ ideas and study them carefully. And mean it. Your opponents may be right. It is a lot easier at this stage to agree to think about their points than to move rapidly ahead and find yourself in a position where your opponents can say: “We tried to tell you, but you wouldn’t listen.”
Thank your opponents sincerely for their interest. Anyone who takes the time to disagree with you is interested in the same things you are. Think of them as people who really want to help you, and you may turn your opponents into friends.
Postpone action to give both sides time to think through the problem. Suggest that a new meeting be held later that day or the next day, when all the facts may be brought to bear. In preparation for this meeting, ask yourself some hard questions:
Could my opponents be right? Partly right? Is there truth or merit in their position or argument? Is my reaction one that will relieve the problem or will it just relieve any frustration? Will my reaction drive my opponents further away or draw them closer to me? Will my reaction elevate the estimation good people have of me? Will I win or lose? What price will I have to pay if I win? If I am quiet about it, will the disagreement blow over? Is this difficult situation an opportunity for me? Dale Carnegie. “How to Win Friends & Influence People.”
This is a huge growth opportunity for me in 2018, I am putting it in my top 3 personal growth goals. There are those times in life when you find information the speaks to you and humbles you to the point of growth. I pray that this day I will remember this information and learn to use it in my personal, family and business life.