An Argument Is Not A Discussion
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Mar 29, 2017
Usually when I write a post on a diversity issue I get few people to comment, let alone read it. That’s why last week’s post about privilege & cultural appropriation stood out because not only did it get a couple of comments but it got me talking to a few people on Twitter.
The first person I talked to is someone I know locally. We had a nice discussion where, I hope, we both got to talk and listen to each other (thanks Ben).
Just as our conversation ended someone else jumped in and was kind of on the attack mode. I didn’t mind it initially because there are people who don’t believe in diversity initiatives or the concept of cultural appropriation; I never expect everyone to agree with me. However, he kept getting a bit more belligerent until he finally said that I obviously didn’t have a real argument because I didn’t answer his question… which of course I did.
Being me, I decided to look at his Twitter profile and stream to see how he talked to people in general. I noticed that he was an attacker, which is an interesting style but rarely produces good results. Badgering someone’s position never works, and dismissing them when they respond to your questions is not only rude, but it’s argumentative; frankly, I don’t waste my time talking to people like that for long.
I finally responded to him saying that exact thing, then decided to block him. It wasn’t worth my time to continue on a discussion that wasn’t going to end with either of us being happy. The funny thing is that as I was ending that conversation someone else asked a question about it, and he and I exchanged a few messages, once again a discussion, and we ended it with a better understanding of each other.
I’m not someone who likes arguing all that often. I’m not an angel, so every once in a while, if I’m in a mood or a subject is touchy to me, I might argue for a while, but there’s always a point where, if it goes on too long, I’ll recognize it’s a loop situation and pull away from it. The book Crucial Conversations talks about those times when one needs to have a dialogue to clear things up, especially when people have to interact with each other over time, but in almost every case of mine I might never see or hear from those people again.
Yet, there are some people who love arguing, to the extent that it becomes the only way they know how to talk to others. It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s productive; they’d rather browbeat someone into submission than actually learn something about another person’s position. I wondered why that is, so I decided to see what I could find.
I came across an article titled PsychTests Study Reveals Why Certain People Tend to Pick Fights, which was put together by Larry Buford and figured it was a perfect source because instead of using just opinions it has some actual statistics. It was based off a group of people taking as emotional intelligence test by a group called PsychTests. Let’s look at a few results:
* Argumentative people have less impulse control (score of 51 vs. 67 on a scale from 0 to 100)
* Argumentative people have low self-esteem (score of 56 vs. 77)
* Argumentative people are less content with their life (score of 52 vs.72)
* Argumentative people have a more negative mindset (score of 58 vs. 74)
* Argumentative people are less skilled at resolving conflict (score of 55 vs. 66)
There are a lot more stats and a bit more detail in the argument so I recommend you check it out if you’re interested. I’ll offer the caveat that it’s not totally scientific, but it’s still pretty good. Maybe you’d like this video instead, which, interestingly enough, got both discussions and arguments in its comments lol:
Since that’s out of the way, let’s figure out how we can make conversations a bit more productive and move from arguments to discussions:
1. Know your position
Many people get themselves into a conversation without knowing what they’re talking about or not taking the time to do any research. When that happens, all they can do to support their decision is shout the other side down. Winning isn’t everything is there’s nothing to be accomplished.
2. Have a reason to care
There are a lot of people who try to get me into a discussion or argument about something I don’t care anything about. Luckily, I’m someone who will say I don’t care and will immediately get out of the discussion, no matter what the other person might want to do.
Argumentative people will automatically take the other side and a battle’s going to ensure. Feelings will be hurt and emotions will be tested. Frankly, no one has time for that kind of pointless diatribe so if you really don’t care about the issue try to leave it alone and walk away.
3. Listen before challenging
Often when an argument ensues it’s because people are already set to respond to a person’s side of the justification rather than what they’re actually saying. These days it happens more often online because it’s hard to know the tense a person’s words have without any type of emoji or not knowing the other person all that well.
It’s always best to make sure one listens, or reads, to what’s exactly being said by the other person before making a response. Sometimes it might involve asking some clarifying questions to make sure you know whether what you have to say is necessary or not, especially since sometimes language can be very imprecise.
We can’t always hide from times of distress when certain conversations come upon us. The best we can do is be perspicacious in what we want to put our time into or what’s best to leave alone. These days I’m looking for more peace in my life, so I’d rather have discussions than arguments. Is this you? Would you like it to be?
(the link with the light blue line denotes an affiliate link if you’d like to check out the book)