Thursday, March 1, 2012
Some Thoughts on Arguments
But why, exactly? Why shouldn't we get in heated personal debates with people, make snippy remarks and roll our eyes, or even (if need be) call them stupid? After all, isn't that what arguments are all about? To answer these questions, it's necessary to consider the purpose of an argument. In other words, why engage the other person to begin with? What's the point? If the point of getting in an argument with someone is to attempt to make them look stupid, or make ourselves feel better, then avoiding the eye rolling and condescending tones and name calling becomes unintelligible. Such things are exactly what we need to make someone look stupid or make ourselves feel better! But if the point of getting in an argument is to influence the other person, that is, to change their mind or affect their opinion, the picture changes dramatically.
Consider when some other person screams in your face, or acts like they are "above and beyond" your intellect. Recall when someone has called you stupid, employed sarcasm to make fun of you, or referred to something you said as "the dumbest thing" they've ever heard. How do you respond to these things? Do these things encourage you to like or admire the other person? Has the other person gained any influence with you? Are you more likely to turn around and agree with their position? Or do you resent them treating you in such a way? Even if they turn out to be right, are you not more inclined to dismiss them because they have treated you so poorly? The reason Dale Carnegie advises us to avoid arguments is because when we do (argue/fight), people naturally resent it and close their minds to what we have to say. Our position may be the absolute objective truth, but it doesn't matter to them. We have lost influence with them, and what we have to say no longer matters.
If you wish to influence another person, you have to show respect for two things: the other person and their ideas. You have to listen to what they have to say, and the reasons they have for saying it. And you cannot do so by being unfriendly, unpleasant or disrespectful. You can certainly disagree with people. But don't ever, as Dale Carnegie says, argue with them. If you do, chances are that you will lose influence with them, and by doing so, you may forever lose the opportunity to contribute to their life.