Fighting the fight

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The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it— Dale Carnegie

I love Dale Carnegie, but that is total bull****. Let me explain.

For most of history, dissent has been the reason us humans have constantly changed our ways of being, having rebelled against prevalent ideas and as a result, pushed civilization forward. Think of ideas that are now obvious but were fads until they were not. The shape of the Earth, atoms, climate change, human rights, gender identity, evolution… the list goes on. As a society, ideas and notions are constantly evolving, and disagreements are at the core of it.

The nature of disagreements is such that it inevitably leads to arguments in some shape or form because we’re highly inclined to guard our beliefs at all costs when attacked. Now one could argue that an argument is not the same as a disagreement, pun intended! So let me clarify that the point being made here applies to both and that an article dedicated to definitions is for another day.

When two people disagree, it means there is a difference of opinion. Our opinions are important to most of us and we feel obligated to guard them, like shielding a child on a battlefield. Except, arguments are not war. They’re opportunities for growth. In what other situation can one possibly come out better than they went into it, regardless of the outcome? If you’re right, you discover the depth of your knowledge, the weight of your opinion, and your level of articulation. If you’re wrong, even better, because you get to learn something new, and are so much better off, forever.

Arguments are a quintessential win-win situation.

Getting personal

Arguments have a negative connotation, for good reason. But as a passionate loud-mouthed opinionated person, I think arguments do not need to be a negative thing. We learn so much about ourselves and others when we discuss our opinions. Sure, it will get heated, but that just goes on to show how passionate one is, which shows how much they care — and that’s a beautiful thing.

I was recently at a pizza joint and asked the guy behind the counter for vegetarian options. He enthusiastically pointed at the veggie delight, which I bought. The crust was unlike anywhere else I’d tried but I liked it. I asked the guy what they did. He started explaining how they made pizzas, and that theirs was unlike anywhere else. In passing, he mentioned a ‘chicken broth’ used in the tomato sauce base. First of all, what? Second of all, in what world that does qualify as a vegetarian pizza? Fortunately, I’m not vegetarian, so it didn’t offend me, but I put forward my point rather vehemently that it’s wrong to sell that pizza as a vegetarian pizza. He made a couple of comments, none related to mine. Finally, his closing statement was ‘you young people think you know everything.’

What happened above is a classic example of fighting the fighter, instead of the fight. That is what makes arguments a waste of time. When you’re more focused on defeating the person, rather than their argument, it’s better to avoid it altogether and keep the little peace of mind left. In arguments like those, I’d take up Dale Carnegie on his wisdom.

Humility

I believe that the key to winning in this game is humility. Remembering that we’re all humans navigating life on this wildly beautiful yet notoriously dangerous planet, we call the Earth. Remembering that everyone is fighting their own battles, and kindness despite differences of opinion goes a long way. Remembering that no one knows everything, and in fact, most of us know very little. Being wrong comes at little to no cost, but knowingly stinting our own growth comes at a very high cost.

It’s certainly easier said than done, but I believe it’s a mindset to develop like any other. When we learn to separate out the message from the messenger, magical things happen.

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Shraddha Shenoy

Shraddha Shenoy

I write on business, technology, people and everything I learn as I go. Secretly treat this as notes to self. Always more curious than cautious.