There’s a part of your brain that shuts down as soon as someone starts to question a belief that you hold dear.
You can see this happening in others when discussing one of the famous conversation untouchables: religion, politics, sex. Their eyes change, glaze over a bit but also take on an increased ferocity. Suddenly, logic and rationality, the pivot-points of legitimate, purposeful discussions, have gone out the window.
There’s no real right and wrong, just my way and your way. And my way is always right.
Does this really accomplish anything?
Some would say yes.
I was having a discussion with a friend of mine the other day who is convinced that a healthy relationship requires arguing, even if the end result isn’t a changed mind. This helps you see if the other person is willing to stand up for what they believe in (and is a test for yourself to see if you’ll do the same) and allows you to make sure that you’re compatible under even less-than-ideal circumstances.
It’s a good point, that arguing serves a function other than actually trying to come to a conclusion, and it’s granted some credibility by the fact that people do continue to argue even after it’s clear neither will bend.
What about arguments in a professional space? Or an argument with a stranger? What exactly do we seek to gain from such interactions?
The immediate response I have to this question is that we want to convince others of the strength of our ideas. If someone else thinks differently than we, then (we subconsciously think) our ideas are weakened. If everyone isn’t on board, there’s an increased chance that we’re on the wrong side of things, and that’s a possibility we simply don’t want to face.
Are these legitimate reasons to argue? To risk a relationship (even a weak one) in order to trumpet our ideas and brandish their supposed superiority in order to show someone, anyone, that we’re right?
I would say…maybe.
It all depends on how you approach the argument and what you’re prepared to lose.
Are you willing to be convinced? Are you willing to not be offended when your ideas are held up to the light and found to be faulty? Are you willing to bow to rationality as a third-party judge of worth? Are you willing to potentially have a complete parallax shift and realize that something you’ve based all of your decisions and ideals on is incorrect?
If so, argue. Argue all the time, because you’ll be better for it (but find other people who answer the same way to argue with).
If not, don’t waste your time or anybody else’s by getting in an argument. It’s silly and pointless and everyone else is sick of being forced to listen to it.
Update: January 26, 2017
My thoughts have shifted a bit on this.
1. I don’t think arguments are required at all in relationships, as ideally we communicate better than that, and see any conflict as a discussion, an opportunity, rather than an argument, which implies someone has to win (and in a relationship, if one person wins, no one does).
2. In most cases, I personally opt out of arguments more often than not these days, as they typically aren’t worth the effort. If someone wants to learn they’ll usually ask questions, rather than arguing. And if they want to teach you, there are better ways to communicate that information.