The Next Time You Make An Argument, Notice If You’re Arguing - Grasshopper
Socrates believed the first step to knowledge was recognizing our own ignorance. Are you ignoring the premise that arguing is an ignorant way of engaging with others?
I don’t believe anyone was born to argue, but it sure seems that way sometimes.
My poster child for arguments is celebrated attorney and Professor of Law Alan Dershowitz. I’m not sure in the countless times I’ve seen him on TV that I’ve ever seen him smile while making an argument. Please understand that if I needed someone to argue the law on my behalf, I would beg Professor Dershowitz to represent me. I’m sure he’s a fine fellow otherwise, but he’s not even on my wish list of the top 500 people to invite over for convivial chitchat.
I find that arguments polarize people and if the intention is to get to a solution, not noticing that you are arguing will keep that solution at arm’s length.
You may have zeal and passion for a topic but the minute your focus is making the other person wrong, you have lost the argument. We do this in such subtle yet assertive ways. Even our houses of worship set up arguments on their marquees. “This Sabbath come and find the only, true savior.” They miss the exclusionary nature of their assertion and set up an argument with people who believe otherwise even before the Sabbath arrives.
Generally what I find is that people who habitually argue have a need to be right. And as The Grasshopper said moons ago, “Some people would rather be right than happy. And preferring to be right, they are left out.” Having to be right is a barrier to open communication and closes off our ability to learn something new.
You can make a case without claiming the superior, higher moral ground of being right. You can present your beliefs and opinions as just part of the whole picture, and if you listen carefully enough to the counter-points, you may see, hear or feel something in them that helps fill in your picture. You’d never get to this new plateau by just arguing for your point of view.
The whole purpose of this writing is to get us to notice how often we argue to no avail. The real gift is catching ourselves in the middle of an argument and pausing long enough to get us to change course.
If you really need to argue, go down to the local bar and talk politics or call a radio talk show. You can get your fix there, but notice that nothing ever gets settled with an argument. When you take the time to notice that you’re arguing and you cease, you welcome in the possibility of a solution and you’ll experience more peace.
All the best,
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