Winning or Losing an Argument

Posted by Todd Smith

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(Author: Hannah Smith, Todd Smith’s 15-year-old daughter. The image is not Hannah.)

Have you ever had an argument with someone important to you?  Did you win or lose?  Do you love the feeling when the opposing argument gets shut down and your opponent conforms to your opinion? Is that your ultimate goal?  What about how your opponent feels?  Do you care?

I’m like many teenagers. Because I have strong (and often contrary) opinions, I’ve had my share of arguments; I’ve won some and lost some.

I used to not hesitate to argue. I would jump into disagreements like they were a cold pool on a summer day. I was blind to the fact that nothing good was coming from these arguments. I wasn’t changing their views. In fact, it normally made my opponents feel stronger about their own opinions, and it would cause annoyance and anger. So I began to ask myself: How can I avoid tension and successfully get my point across?

Five Solutions

Here are four things I now think about when I find myself about to enter a disagreement that could end up in a heated argument.

1.   Is it Important to Me?

Before saying anything to the other person, ask yourself: Is it worth it? What will be the benefit if I win? What will be the downside if I lose?

When I would enter an argument too quickly, I would end up not having a strong opinion or supportive facts or be unwilling to listen to my opponent, and it would start an unnecessary conflict.

In one of my favorite books, How to Win Friends and Influence People, (I have to admit that my dad paid me to read it), Dale Carnegie said: “The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.” This is true but often ignored because it takes more character to be silent than to speak one’s mind.

2.   Have a Discussion, Not an Argument

Arguments are commonly controlled by emotion, while discussions are more about understanding. It’s important not to enter a disagreement when emotionally compromised. When controlled by your emotions, you are more likely to say hurtful things, yell, and ultimately prevent the discussion from going anywhere. If you feel you are on the verge of an outburst, take a breather and only return when you feel you are ready to approach the situation rationally.

3.   Ask Questions

Too many times I entered an argument knowing that I’m right and they’re wrong. Because why would I argue if I didn’t feel it worth fighting for? But then I realized, why would they think any different? Sometimes it is even better to ask questions rather than ignore the problem because you may begin to judge them without fully understanding their view. Simply learning why the person thinks a certain way can diminish the need for an argument altogether. As my dad has taught me, there are always two sides to every story.

4.   Understand That No One Is You

No one is ever going to think the same as you. We are all very different—different personalities, different past experiences, and different present situations. Learning the way a person thinks is sometimes the only way of truly understanding their position.

Mend Old Wounds

Have you been in an argument that had no closure to it—that was just left as an open wound? It’s so important to do everything you can to find that closure. Hard feelings and grudges are often the result of unsettled conflict. Whenever my brother and I would get into an argument, my parents would put us in a room and we couldn’t come out until we had worked it out. We hated it, but it worked. Finish what you started. It can be a hard thing to do, to go back to that, but re-approaching the situation with the right attitude will help it go smoother.

My Challenge

I want to encourage you to think about these four points when you find yourself on the verge of a disagreement.

What have you learned from working through difficult situations and what have you found works best in avoiding arguments?  Please share your thoughts below this post.

Simply thinking before you argue can result in less stress and more understanding, while carelessly jumping into an argument can result in regretful actions and damaged relationships.

About the Author: Hannah Smith is the daughter of Todd Smith, founder of Little Things Matter.

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About the Author:

Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 43 years and founder of Little Things Matter. This blog contains over 200 of his timeless life lessons.

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