Argue Only If You Can Accept Defeat

 

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 while still taking 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 needs 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 lent 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 by association (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 morals on is wrong?

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.

15 comments

  1. This is a really strong idea, Colin. I think you’re exactly right about some issues being entirely intractable, at least within the context of a regular argument. Now if something extraordinary were to occur in one’s life, perhaps there would be a chance for the mind to open to other possibilities, but normally arguing about religion, politics, etc. just amounts to talking at another person while they talk at you, all for the sake of… talking. And, well, I for one am not interested in talking for talking’s sake. So I think I’ll stop there. :-)

    Best,
    Haidn

  2. a lot of times we argue to be “right” instead of arguing in order to find a solution.
    I’m always amazed how we can “believe” something so strongly, but are deathly afraid to let people try and poke holes in it. If something’s worth believing, it should be worth testing.

  3. That’s how I feel, too. Unfortunately, it’s not the standard modus operandi for most, and honestly even those of us who try hard to avoid doing it sometimes fall into that trap.

  4. Colin, thanks for the very interesting topic. I really like it.

    You are absolutely right. If people who can’t accept defeat argue with each other, then expect a bloody ending, which is really pointless. Not only will you have a nose but also a broken relationship with others.

    I also believe that arguing can be healthy in a relationship. Aside from stimulating our intellect, it also tests our patience and respect for each other’s ideas. When you value a relationship, it doesn’t mean that your minds always have to meet – so you argue. It’s good because you will find out each others perspectives and thoughts. Through that, you get to see how the other thinks and you’ll know each other better.

    But if your sole purpose for an argument is to just talk and never listen, then please, don’t even bother.

    • Ah, too many noses broken when we should be breaking bread!

      Every argument is the opportunity to become a better person and change the path your life is taking. What a shame when that opportunity is missed!

  5. I’ve had so many instances like this: trying to have a friendly conversation and it turns into something hurtful because all of a sudden my opinions are wrong, because they don’t line up with someone else.
    It makes me sad, because I try to learn new things and gain new perspectives, but it fails.

    I don’t keep my opinions to myself, though. I try to just keep cool and listen.

  6. Very interesting topic! I know that my political and religious points of view can be a bit taboo with some people. I’ve had people flat out refuse to talk to me. I’ve also been asked to lie about my views on various occasions to “keep the peace” which I didn’t do. I normally don’t be up topics such as money, religion, sex, politics but when asked I always tell the truth but I’m also always happy to listen to what others have to say. When in a debate or argument I always listen and if the other person has a better argument there is a chance I may change my point of view.

    I just try to keep and open mind and make sure to actively listen and I just hope the other party extends the same to me.

  7. Also, a very legitimate reason to argue is that arguing STRENGTHENS your own convictions about an issue. Or you start seeing the cracks in your beliefs/ideas and you get to expand on your original thoughts.

    I fully support intellectual arguments ( meaning anything with some substance to it ), not petty ones. But there are a lot of people that I would NEVER enter into some topic arguments with. Religion and politics are my biggest no-nos when it comes to certain people.

    Hmmm..maybe I should start doing the opposite? Go up to a stranger and ask them about their opinions on some touchy subject and try and play the devil’s advocate and stirrrrr some FIRE up???? What do you think Colin??

  8. Also, a very legitimate reason to argue is that arguing STRENGTHENS your own convictions about an issue. Or you start seeing the cracks in your beliefs/ideas and you get to expand on your original thoughts.

    I fully support intellectual arguments ( meaning anything with some substance to it ), not petty ones. But there are a lot of people that I would NEVER enter into some topic arguments with. Religion and politics are my biggest no-nos when it comes to certain people.

    Hmmm..maybe I should start doing the opposite? Go up to a stranger and ask them about their opinions on some touchy subject and try and play the devil’s advocate and stirrrrr some FIRE up???? What do you think Colin??

  9. I just randomly came across your blog and I am really liking your perspective and courageous personality. I am at a cross-roads in my life wondering what the next step is for me and your experiences gave me some inspiration. Thanks!

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  11. This is really the fourth blog, of yours
    I really checked out. Nonetheless I enjoy this one, “Argue Only
    If You Can Accept Defeat | Exile Lifestyle” the very best.
    Thanks -Sanora

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