The Art of Losing Arguments

7:30 AM

Herein I Share the Secrets of Success, Rare to Behold
by Me
First Printing, 2011
Copyright the same
All rights reserved
Use with discretion

"The art of losing arguments?" the reader who picks up this pamphlet asks. "What good is that? To whom is it marketed? Is it some form of fallen-flat joke?"

No. It is merely counterintuition. I consider winning arguments a pleasant experience. But that's just the point. Too often we lose an argument by winning it. Consider:

Janey June: Harrison, stop wiping your shoes on my floor. Married twenty years and you haven't learned anything!

Harrison: I bought this floor, I installed this floor, I own this floor and I'm wiping my shoes on my floor.

JJ: For heaven's sake! I live with this floor, I mop and vacuum this floor and I'll floor you if you don't stop this minute!

H: I'll do as I please.

JJ: You're inconsiderate.

H [coolly]: No, I'm not.

JJ [heat rising]: Yes, you are.

H [more coolly]: I am not.

JJ [red]: Harrison Henry Hurt! You are the most inconsiderate man who ever walked the floor of this earth. I don't ever want to talk to you again and I won't ever mop this floor and I think I'll just cry if you don't listen to me this instant.

H [takes off shoes]: There. Will that make you happy?

JJ [flustered and rather shocked at success]: Of course it won't. Now, I made you supper, honey; sit down and eat it.

Who won the argument? Mrs. Hurt did, in the sense that she had the last word and pounded her working husband to oblivion and silence. But in the end, she lost. She lost her husband's respect. She lost the respect of anybody reading the transcript. She didn't convince her husband that he was wrong - far from it. She didn't really win anything by winning. Her husband did by losing - he kept his temper, his self-respect and the pity of the readers.

See what I mean? With that, we proceed.

With an agreeable disagreer

There are two types of dissenters - the agreeable and the disagreeable. The agreeable may not agree in any sense of the word, but they are at least able to hold a two-way conversation, using logic, making sense and desiring a dialogue - if only to annoy you. With them you have my permission to argue.

But graciously. It's counterintuitive to some people that railing, ranting and rudeness does not make one's position winsome. But it's true. While harsh sarcasm, fierce emotion, name calling and general noisemaking may scare your opponent away, it doesn't accomplish much. It doesn't convince the person you're arguing with (since you're too loud for them to hear what you have to say) - and it also doesn't convince the people listening in.

Think politics.

On internet forums and websites especially, a gracious, cool-headed reply stands out among the sea of passion. People who have absolutely no idea who's right are drawn to the person who refuses to throttle others and their opinions to silence. People listen to the leader who can talk calmly and logically. And it does wonders for the strength of your argument.

If you have to put in a bunch of noise and rudeness in order to make your point, it's apparent you don't think your argument strong enough. You evidently don't think your position can be explained in a rational matter and must instead be brought about by grand inquisitions and verbal crusades. You must not have much to say if it can't be said without snarky remarks.

But if you can sit down and explain it, letting the strength of its truth shine out, then people will be convinced. Even if they're not, people will at least say, "I disagree with it, but I respect it, if such a gracious person can hold it."

Plus, graciousness wins on another level. How many friends could be made if we responded with love and understanding instead of cutting remarks? How many angry situations diffused if we kept our heads? How many arguments won if we actually discussed the issue instead of undermining and belittling the opposing view? This applies, by the way, even if the person appears pig-headed and obtuse. You may just charm him into agreement.

Speaking of pig-headed and obtuse....

With a disagreeable disagreer

These are people who don't care a fig about what you have to say. They're not there to learn or to discuss. They're so engaged with their own self that any different idea is interrupting their personal party. When they talk, it's to be heard. They don't want your opinion. Even if they accost you first, it is only to provide an audience for them to drag out their soapbox and say their piece.

With these folks, you win by backing away from the situation. Even if they malign your character and misinterpret your views, you lose by trying to correct them. Such people win all the time. Thus they lose. And you win.

Counterintuitive. Works every time.

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6 impressions

  1. Very well said. This reminds me of a quote from Supernanny, "You can't have an argument if one person refuses to fight." It's so true and sometimes hard to accomplish, but worth it in the end. Thanks for the post! I enjoy your writing. :)

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  2. First off, your creative names are hilarious... A+ for creativeness.

    First word coming to mind was "stock character" ((Mrs. Hurt)). Ack - but how awful is it that she won such a dumb argument? Agrees wholeheartily. :)

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  3. You mean... loosing an argument won't... *deep breath* ...KILL me?!

    What a concept. 0.0

    Actually, I can count on one hand the actual heated arguments I've had with friends -- and that's going all the way back to Kindergarten.

    It's the family members that I struggle with. For some reason, my younger sister getting the last word is akin to lettin' the Nazis win the war! *sigh* It takes humility to apply this kind of graciousness within the context of the home. Thank you for the reminder that sometimes - even if you're right - it is more respectable to "accept defeat" quietly, and let the opponent rethink your argument when tension isn't clouding their thoughts.

    Actually, here's an example. For a while, my sister was wearing a style of make-up of which my mother openly disapproved. Marmy never really put her foot down and forbade sis from wearing it, because she wanted sis to have the conviction on her own. I agreed with Marmy and thought sis needed to agree with her as well. So I sat her down and tried to explain to her the folly of her choices. She got very defensive, very quickly. I started to allow myself to follow her lead and raise my voice as well until Marmy clapped her hands loudly and demanded we talk to each other in a respectful way. I crossed my arms stormily and as we continued more calmly, kept sneaking in unfair jabs at her character. She wasn't being very much of a saint either. In the middle of it all, God convicted me. I prayed for wisdom and began to listen to her. What I heard behind her words of stubbornness was a spirit pleading to really understand why we were making "such a big deal" out of everything. I mean, I knew why it wasn't okay, but what if she hadn't seen what I'd seen?

    Praying for wisdom, I stepped quietly out of the argument and turned to my computer. She seemed relieved and contented herself with talking to Marmy (who is far less provoking than I, to be sure). I pulled up pictures of women from different cultures that had rebelled against the Lord and contrasted them with pictures of women who lived in cultures influenced heavily by Christianity. The contrast was clear. I invited her to take a look and she stiffly accepted. I had a feeling she probably didn't care one bit, but I showed her anyway. By the end of it, she still acted as though she disagreed but all tension was gone. I just gave it to God.
    The next day, some friends came over that usually wear that style of make-up, but for whatever reason, had none on. Sis raved over how beautiful they were. Then she started sharing with them what I had showed her about the contrasting styles.

    All I can say is hallelujah. Left to myself, I would have carried on and repelled her from ever considering my opinion. God changed the direction of that "argument" and defused it with His love and wisdom.


    In other words, Amen!

    Soli Deo Gloria,
    Shelby

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  4. Bailey,

    You always seem to have the argument well in hand, when we discuss things. I suppose I must catagorize myself with the disagreeable disagreer.

    Thank you for allowing me to win so often. And explaining how I always lose every argument I get in. Now, if only I could put this into practice... ?

    -DFA

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  5. Missy - Thank you! That quote is so true. If only I could apply it.....

    Floppeth - Why, thank'ee. We're such exemplary sisters. We haven't had a real fight since last Friday - and that was rather a pathetic effort, if I do say so myself. If only all girls would follow our example. *HUGS*

    Shelby - Your first line cracked me up. Shocking, isn't it? And bravo for you for listening to conviction during one of those heated big sister moments. It's so hard to let go when you're absolutely convicted you're right. (I was so excited to get your comment. I stared at the dashboard all day yesterday waiting for it. =))

    Tragedy101 - You were the furthest person from my mind when I wrote about disagreeable disagreers. I put you as an exemplary agreeable disageer - and I mean that sincerely. I wish all dissenting commenters would comment as you do. But that too is a generalization, for you also agree beautifully. (And I think that I always get to stick the last word in during our conversations, so I'm the loser there.)

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  6. I tend to be rather quiet most of the time, so you might say it's easier for me to "win" by losing. Sorta. Sometimes it's REALLY hard to stay calm and only say good things in reply to the bad things others say. *sighs* Thank the Lord for the help He gives us!

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