Think about the last argument you “won” against your mother, your spouse, or your child. How did it make you feel? More importantly, how did it make them feel? Did they change their actions, or beliefs after having been proven wrong? Did they finally see the light and come around to your way of thinking?
We all know, the answer to these questions is generally “no”.
“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.”
― Dale Carnegie,
The truth is, that even if your opponents action or belief was successfully influenced, it wasn’t done without inflicting collateral damage. Chances are, whoever you’ve argued with is dealing with their own feelings of bitterness and frustration. The kicker is that, those negative feelings and emotions are now linked to you. Whether you like it or not, whether you intended it or not, proving your argument, while bolstering your ego, will likely weaken your relationship.
People want to feel good and they want to be around others who make them feel good. Some of the primary sources of good emotions are feeling smart, intelligent, and right.
No one wants to be wrong.
Let’s flip it around. Think about the last time someone proved you wrong in front of a crowd. How did you feel? I’ll bet you were amazed by their brilliance and master logic skills… not. You felt bad– in fact, you probably used more than a few explicit words to describe the individual after that encounter. “But he was right.” But it doesn’t matter, because for him to be right you had to be wrong- and that is inexcusable. I’ll go a step further and bet that you still believe you’re right.
When you enter into an argument, you do so to prove a point, but, like a brain surgeon operating with only a screwdriver– the operation is never as clean as you’d hoped or intended.
“I have come to the conclusion that there is only one way under high heaven to get the best of an argument— and that is to avoid it. Avoid it as you would avoid rattlesnakes and earthquakes.”
― Dale Carnegie,
Here’s a novel idea: the next time someone disagrees with you– let them! What does it matter if your husband is convinced that the sky is more green than blue, or that watching football is a “sport”? What does it matter if your mother-in-law thinks you overcook the turkey every year? Do you really need to prove that your uncle’s war story changes every time he tells it?
The next time you think about disagreeing, ask yourself these 3 questions:
- Can proving my argument strengthen this relationship?
- Have I thoroughly inspected my point of view, given this new information?
- If I agree, will it hurt anyone?
Disagreement happens when we forget that, in our perspective, we are not omnipotent. Our views are our truths, and those truths rely on our experiences, information, and the knowledge we’ve gathered. When we look at it this way, it becomes more and more clear that two people, who have opposing views, can be right at the same time.
Instead of thinking “they are wrong, I must correct them”, think “they feel good, how can I reinforce that?” When you are not being asked for your opinion, and you’ve answered the 3 questions above with “no”, don’t argue. Your ego will survive and your relationships will transform by the simple magic of letting someone else be right.
Agreement costs nothing, and changes everything.