Arguments are stupid. If a Mormon and an Atheist are friends, will an argument about God and religion do them any good? What about die hard two sports fans from opposing teams? A pro-life versus a pro-choice advocate?
Let’s say my friend and I are arguing about whether or not being a vegetarian. This is a lose-lose argument, because no matter how much proof or Harvard Studies I can quote from, I will never be able to bully her into believing that vegetarian is the best option. ESPECIALLY because going vegetarian isn’t a viable option for people who LOVE meat. Eventually, after all the facts have been stated, the argument will diminish into a battle of rhetoric. If I “win” this battle, she will walk away, unconvinced, with a damaged view of me.
Arguing with someone only makes them MORE likely to hold on to what they believe in. As they defend their beliefs against you, they’ll actually believe in it MORE strongly.
One of my favorite books, How To Win Friends and Influence People, is incredibly insightful on the topic of criticism and arguments. That book has helped me time and time again, and should be number one on your self-improvement bookshelf.
So basically, disagreements should be approached in one of two ways.
- Agreeing to disagree. This method shows that you respect the other person enough to let them believe what they want to without your opinion being imposed on you. This is one of the best ways you can preserve your relationship, and it shows a levelheadedness and maturity that most people in our society lack.
- Opening a discussion. There is a fine line between a discussion and an argument. An open discussion allows two people to clearly state their views without interruption. Each side concedes a point, making an effort to find common ground. Whereas arguments are based around criticism and pointing out why the other person is wrong, discussions seek to point out why the other person is right while amending where your views differ. “I think that as a non-vegetarian, your diet is really healthy. From the research I’ve read, you could improve your health even more by cutting out meat, but the choice is a personal one that I definitely cannot make for you.”
EXAMPLES OF ARGUMENTATIVE STATEMENTS
If you find yourself criticizing someone, this is a sign you’re entering into a destructive argument that will erode your relationship. Here’s a list of common criticisms that should bring up red flags:
- “Your views are oversimplified and wrong, and here’s why…”
- “Your documentary is filled with fallacies and completely slanted, and I know better than to fall for your crap.”
- “My way is better.”
- “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
- “You’re too young/old to know anything.”
- “You don’t understand.”
I lose respect for the people who argue in front of me, angrily spouting accusations and criticisms. Not only does it mean those people are not mature enough to go about their differences in a polite manner, but it also points to some ugly character flaws.
So don’t argue! You’re better than that.
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” -Leo Tolstoy