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Wouldn't it be wonderful if every time we disagreed with someone we could actually win when arguing? For many, disagreements are viewed as a battle of intelligence between two opposing forces. Each having what they believe to be a strong and valid position on a topic, they engage in verbal and intellectual warfare determined to prove themselves right and their opponent wrong. Whether through the use of reliable facts, the support and validation of others, or a comparison of educational or intellectual levels, some people are willing to use whatever means necessary to prove their superiority over the other. A battle of egos can prove destructive yet short of conceding in defeat or threatening the other party to get them back down, is there any way a person can win when arguing? Actually, there are several options.
In any discussion each party begins by presenting their unique position on a topic. Both are passionate about the validity of their argument and after some time it becomes evident that neither is willing to budge. In order to win, you can choose one of the following options:
#1. Neutralize: The popular cliché, "Agree to disagree" is actually a valid approach to take. By realizing that continually debating what appears to be a no-win situation, you can chose to simply let the disagreement exist. Graciously allowing the other person the right to their own beliefs can stop any damage from occurring as a result of two highly charged egos continuing in a heated debate. Simply recognize that each party has the same rights as the other in terms of what they believe to be valid. Respect that and neutralize the tension by graciously stating that you're intention is not to convince the other person that their perspective is wrong (even if you believe it is) and that you are fine with those who do not share your point of view. Express your sentiments in a non-condescending manner and state that it might be best to put this issue to rest. Choose a less divisive subject to talk about or move on to another activity. Being respectful is always a win.
#2. Walk Away: People can become very irate when others don't share their beliefs concerning subjects they are passionate about. After making a sincere effort to have a rational discussion with them, it become apparent that they are becoming even more hostile and defensive. Recognizing when one is in an unhealthy, stressful or even potentially dangerous situation, removing yourself is a wise choice. The preservation of one's emotional and physical safety must always be a priority. Walking away prevents either side from a possible meltdown or saying or doing something regrettable. Sometimes, in the heat of an argument, one can make false accusations or assumptions, only fueling the fire and possibly causing harm. Disengaging is a win.
Keep in mind, too, that once an individual closes their mind, any further discussion is futile and any possible progress is squelched. A mind is like a parachute: both only work when open. Walking away is not a sign of defeat but rather one of self-preservation and intelligence.
#3. Concede: Giving in in no way implies that you are agreeing with the other party if in fact you still hold fast to your own beliefs. By conceding I mean to simply acknowledge their position as equally as valid to them as yours is to you. With true respect and sincerity, express that you respect their point of view. Period. Avoid needing to point out that you still disagree with them. Conclude with a statement such as, "Yes, I understand where you are coming from." Then move on to another activity. Integrity is a win.
#4. Reverse: Occasionally in an oppositional debate, one party has a change of heart. They realize that perhaps their way of thinking was somewhat skewed; that perhaps the other person has made some valid points. There is no shame or weakness in reversing one's position whether entirely or partially. If this is the case and you have come to that realization, openly acknowledge the validity of what the other has shared. Let them know that as a result of this exchange, you have a new, better, or deeper understanding of the topic. Admit that you have found clarity in their position and are grateful for them sharing their knowledge with you. Courage is a win.
#5. Reversal #2: On occasion, the other party may have an ah-ha moment where they realize that what you have been saying suddenly makes more sense to them. They may now realize that their perspective was somewhat inaccurate or that there can be more than one valid argument for the same topic. However, it is difficult for many to openly admit this as there is typically concern of being embarrassed, ridiculed, scolded, make fun of, and so on. In this instance, how you handle yourself is critical. Always be gracious. Show your appreciation for their willingness to listen to your thoughts. Compliment them on their willingness to see things from a new perspective. Keep it light: make reference to a time when you were insistent on an issue only to realize you had made a serious error in judgment or came to realize that the opposing position was actually more sensible. Never embarrass, humiliate, degrade, criticize or make fun of the other person. Refrain from making such comments as "See, I told you so!" or "I told you I was right!" Always treat them with respect and allow them to leave with their dignity intact. Compassion and sensitivity are wins.
Disagreements can open doors to immense personal growth when both sides remain open minded and fair, eager to learn from the opposing side. But they can also become volatile and dangerous when egos control our decisions. One of mankind's greatest needs is to be heard and acknowledged, not necessarily to have others agree with them. Something as simple as a acknowledgment can be enough to reassure the other party that you are not the enemy but rather an ally supporting their individuality. This enables them to remain calm and relaxed as they trust that you will be fair and respectful of them at all times.
People want to be their own person and some clearly march to the beat of a different drummer. It is an admirable quality that one is confident enough not to be threatened by those who oppose their views. So when discord arises, Disagree with Dignity; Attack the Issues not the Individual.
Remember, I stated that you would win when arguing, not win the argument. There is a critical distinction between the two and when understood you will ultimately emerge victorious, a winner, in the sense that you have maintained your integrity, preserved the dignity of the other person, prohibited stress from manifesting, and safeguarded the integrity of the relationship.
Q: "Disagree with Dignity; Attack the Issues not the Individual."
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