Winning an argument is always tempting.
Who doesn’t want to be right? Have the last word? Be the meanest and sharpest and smartest with their words?
Not feeling it?
Argument is usually corrosive to healthy relationships, and here are six reasons why you never need to win one:
1. You can never technically “win”
Presidential debates stir up the media, and people love to vote on which candidate performed better. But in the end, neither candidate wins — because there are no judges, no standards, no rules. The country may have voted in one candidate’s favor — but loyal supporters of the opponent will hold strongly to their version of how victory went down.
So when you argue with someone and you think you can win or that you have won… think about it more carefully. Even if you make better points and counter each of theirs — that doesn’t mean you’ll convince them that you won. More likely, it means that they’ll get even more upset because you shut them down, or worse — they’ll avoid you, resent you, or be passive aggressive in revenge.
2. Arguing perpetuates conflict
For the same reasons that no one wins an argument, arguing only adds more tension to conflict.
If you work well with your emotions and are crafty enough, you can shift arguments into meaningful, intimate, constructive conversations.
But most of the time, arguments just turn things into bigger problems and you end up saying what you don’t really mean. You end up miscommunicating your feelings because you decided to use your words as weapons, instead of magic.
3. The legal system is based on arbitration
Most of time, you can solve your problems with other people directly. For more serious interpersonal disputes, you can hire a lawyer, who’s trained to defend your legal rights. But even then, your lawyer’s not going to war, but to court. Where a jury decides who’s right.
Whether or not that jury is “right” is a whole different story. The point is, the jury makes the decision — because it isn’t directly involved in the argument. So the most serious interpersonal disputes are resolved through arbitration, not argument.
4. No one can argue against feelings
Your feelings exist whether or not someone tries to argue them into nonexistence.
When someone doesn’t like hearing what you think… and what you feel — let them. They have a right to their own opinion. They have a right to not be considerate of you in that moment. They have a right to only think for themself.
They can try to argue against your feelings, by telling you that you shouldn’t have them, you’re being unreasonable, your being illogical or irrational, you’re too sensitive, or you’re overreacting.
They can try all they want — but just because they argue doesn’t mean they win (remember #1). What would they win anyway? Completely invalidating you?
They can give you cause to feel invalidated by arguing against your feelings.
But if you hold your personal boundaries and don’t argue back (simply healthily deflect back), you’ve won. You’ve held your ground. You’ve not let them sway you.
It’s when you argue back, by defending your feelings when you never have to… that you let them win.
5. No one can argue against needs
The same thing goes for your basic needs in your relationships. You know them. You have them. You can communicate them to others.
If someone disrespects your needs, then you need to have boundaries in place to inform you what you will and will not tolerate from them.
What you don’t need to do is argue with them about why they should care about your needs enough to respect to them. If you have to pull teeth to convince them to care, then how much of your time are they worth anyway?
6. Trying to control another person’s opinion oversteps both their boundaries and yours
Arguing has one objective: to control. What someone thinks. What they feel. What they should do. What they want. What they need. What’s good for them.
You don’t want others controlling you. And you don’t want to control others. That’s lose-lose for everyone.
Avoid the temptation
Argument is war, but with words. The objective is to attack, counter-attack, and parry. Your relationships are not about war, but cooperation.
If you find yourself in a heated argument, or firing up for one, ask yourself: Do you want your relationship to go to war? And can anyone win in the first place?
About the Author: Melissa Karnaze tries very hard not to argue with commenters, and occasionally juices negative comments into articles. Her inspirational free e-class, Your Life Is Your Construct, is full of practical tips on how to maintain healthy relationships. Learn more about it and sign up here.