The typical argument involves two people with two different beliefs. Person A believes X. Person B believes Y. People approach arguments like Kobe Bryant does basketball – he tries to win.
Person A wins the argument by convincing Person B that X is right and Y is stupid.
Kobe Bryant wins in basketball when his team scores more points than the opposing team.
Both seem pretty clear cut in theory; however, there is no magic scoreboard that objectively can tell which belief is right and which is stupid. Most arguments end with Person A strengthening his belief in X and lowering his respect for Person B. Or vice versa.
No One is Immune
People don’t like the gray area. Our brain likes things organized and neat. Nice and clear-cut. It’s either this or that. It’s natural to be resistant to a different point of view and to get emotional. Our brain doesn’t like the abstract. It needs to know, so we may get emotional about this gray area and argue without any consideration that maybe? Just maybe? There is something more to this issue? Or this person?
But it’s so much easier to leave a person’s belief or a particular person in general compartmentalized as a racist, a dumbass, or simply wrong. We argue about certain things because our belief is more righteous and if everyone thought like me, the world would be a better place.
However, the truth is — we are human beings with pride and biases. No one is immune. We may think there is all this support for our belief, but we see what we want to see. We try to be objects of our subjective interpretation of the world. Humans are flawed machines – we want to be right more than we want to seek out what is right.
So we convince ourselves that we already have the answer.
It’s easier this way.
Stop Winning Arguments
Forget about winning arguments. How many times have you convinced someone that your viewpoint was right?
So let go of winning arguments and embrace losing and learning.
Learn to listen to somebody without thinking of a counterargument.
Learn to understand not only an individual’s beliefs but how they came to that belief.
Learn to model the behavior you would like to see other people on the opposite side of an argument display.
The unwilling won’t learn. They will argue. Give up on the argument and try to make an actual impact.
How to Lose an Argument and Learn Something
The best way to teach children how to behave is not to tell them how to behave, it is to model good behavior. If you want someone to be open-minded and learn about an opposing viewpoint, model the behavior.
Sometimes you can get roped into an argument. It happens to me at inopportune times. I will hear something that conflicts with what I believe to be true and before I know it I’m calling someone stupid or ignorant or both. So the first step to losing the argument is to stop talking and listen. Listen to what they are saying. Fight the urge to label their words and sentences as racist, ignorant, or stupid and listen to the words they are saying.
Don’t share your opinion
Do not share your opinion. You may feel entitled after having listened to their side, but you aren’t. Plus if you share your opinion you may win the argument, and that’s not the goal.
Ask a clarification question about something they said
Site something they said and ask for more. Say, “What do you mean by ?” Be aware of your tone. Don’t be accusing. Be interested. Assume the person isn’t an idiot. Assume they have good reasons for saying what they say. Learn about their ideas. The more you learn about their ideas, the more likely you are to lose this argument.
Continue to ask questions.
Do the same thing. Ask them to expand on something else. Don’t share your side. You want to lose this argument. Keep learning about this person’s belief. Keep plugging away. You will lose the argument if you keep at it.
Thank them for sharing.
So your opponent has explained their point of view and you have asked several follow-up questions. Now solidify your loss by saying, “Thanks for sharing. I appreciate it.” And mean it. Be thankful that they felt comfortable enough with you to share their belief. Be thankful that they are speaking to you about things important to them. Show a little respect. And there you go! You lost the argument.
(if asked) Share your side
This may not happen and if it doesn’t, so what? People will learn when they are willing. If they don’t ask, they aren’t willing, so don’t waste your breath. But if they do, share your side. Don’t point out the holes in their belief. Just state your side. When you state your side or your belief, they will be more willing to listen because they already won the argument. It’s like sucker punching your older brother after he screams, “Uncle!” Their guard is done and they’ll be more open to your beliefs. And maybe… just maybe, they will learn something and change their belief or point of view on the topic. Then both of you learned something! That would just be fantastic — people learning from each other with different backgrounds and beliefs.
On the other hand, you can always talk to people that believe what you believe. Know what you know. Laugh at what you laugh at. That would be so much easier. Wouldn’t want to jumble up the neat and tidy belief system that resides in your brain unchanged since the time you turned eighteen.