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Monday, February 27, 2012

How to Win an Argument

My grandfather used to say “The best way to have the last word in an argument is to say…I apologize.”

Ever had an argument and the other person just would not shut up?  I mean they kept on and on talking in circles about the same issue.  You didn’t see it their way, they didn’t see it your way and before you know it, you were both saying things that you didn't mean.  Eventually, someone storms out angry or just shuts down and nothing gets resolved.   Here is the crazy thing, if I asked the other person about the same argument; would they say that I was describing you?

My grandfather made two very profound observations concerning arguments:

First – Arguments and communication greatly differ in that once the communication is broken down – an argument is all that you have left.  You see, communication is a two-way exchange; information (hopefully productive) is being delivered AND received by each participant.  The goal of communication is aimed at moving forward towards a common goal. In an argument you care more about “winning” than commonality.  It’s more about making the other person “see it your way” versus finding a solution, compromise or common ground.

Second – Arguments perpetuate and erupt in many cases because both people want to have the “last word”.  Not sure who decreed that if you get the last word that means that you are right.  Whoever they were...they're wrong.  The need to get the last word only deteriorates an argument to its lowest form.  This is typically where we say things that we don’t mean, because we want to “shut the other person up” using offensive comments, insults or sarcastic commentary.  Ever seen that happen?

The truth is, life is too short to argue.  Ultimately, arguing is fruitless and the results of it are wasted time in anger, frustration, resentment and unforgiveness.  I compare it to raking leaves in a windstorm.  No matter how hard you rake the leaves, you will not get anything accomplished.  The difference is, with an argument…you control the weather.  How’s that?  You can end the argument because an argument takes two.  Want to get the last word – then apologize, yes even if you don’t feel that you are wrong.  Why?

It’s the wisdom in my grandfather’s quote above and in the words of the apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth. (I Corinthians 6:7-8)  What Paul basically said was if you can’t settle a dispute among yourselves you have already been defeated.  Why not accept the injustice and leave it at that?  Why not just be cheated in the pursuit of peace instead of returning the wrong and malice, even to those we love.   In short, sometimes maturity says “Be the bigger person.”  In a month, most arguments will not have significance, but the pain they can cause might be very significant.  If you offer a sincere apology in efforts to end the conflict you may feel like you lose a battle, but in reality you win the war of maturity. 

I was once on a flight with a lady returning from her sister’s funeral.  In a moment of reflection she became emotional recalling her last conversation with sister.  They argued about some inconsequential issue and hung up, not knowing they would never speak again.  Later that evening as I pondered her pain I penned this poem.  I hope that it encourages you to pursue peace the next time you have the opportunity to argue.  Be Blessed.


Wait up time don’t fly so swift, I want to return to yesterday.
I said some things that weren’t so sweet to my friend that passed away.
Our quarrel was quite unnecessary a selfish tantrum on my part.
The doctor said that it was a coronary, but I know it was a broken heart.
Life is a lesson we all must learn, experience is the price we pay.
How foolish it is to use tomorrow as an excuse to waste today.
I can’t go back, father time won’t wait remember this, next time you fight.
You’ll never forget the pain and regret when you were wrong and can’t make it right.
Copyright © 1999 by William T. Holt

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