Here is my no-nonsense approach to winning every argument, every time.
1. Pick your fights. This is a three-part process. First, pick who you are fighting with, then pick what you are fighting about, and finally decide when to bring it up. But, before you even think about bringing up an unpleasant issue, rate it on a scale of 1 to 10. Things that don’t rate as an 8, 9, or 10 are usually not worth arguing about. Instead, ask your self – 30 minutes, 30 days or 30 years from now, will I still care about this? If not, let it go.
Who? If someone is a lunatic don’t waste your time. This includes teen agers. The frontal lobe of the brain is not fully formed until age 25 so arguing with a teen ager means you are arguing with someone who has only a fraction of a brain. And, anyway, the time to win an argument with a teen ager is when they are two. That’s when you set the rules down. Whatever you taught them at two is what you will get when they are 15. With that said, keep in mind that it is critical to listen to your teenager. Give him/her a chance to convince you. (It’s good practice for them.) During those times that s/he cannot convince you, give him/her a choice between two options that you consider marginally acceptable. As to adult lunatics, stay as far away from them as possible. Minimize your dealings with crazy people. This will save you time and money. I repeat, do not argue with crazy people. Even if you win, you lose.
What? Only argue over things that can be measured. Do not argue over values and beliefs. Yesterday I got myself in an uproar trying to convince someone that her political beliefs are full of holes. HELLO! Ultimately, if she feels better believing stories designed to manipulate the masses with fear, who am I to point to reality. Values and beliefs are not negotiable. Only argue over things that can result in an action plan – you will do this, I won’t do that, etc. Leave the rest of it for the pundits.
When? If you are sure you want to go forward, think about the consequences of bringing up the topic. Timing is critical. Ask yourself is this the best time to make your point or if it would be better to shut up now and bring it up later. In any event, avoid arguing in public at all costs.
2. Fight fair. There are four simple rules for a fair fight. (1) Fight in the here and now – do not bring up things that happened in the past. (2) Listen to each other. Do not talk over someone. Instead, take turns speaking, even if you have to use a timer to make it happen. (3) Keep the focus on yourself, use “I” statements to avoid pointing the finger of blame. It’s not important what percentage of fault each of you contributed to the creation of the problem. (4) Avoid threats, name-calling, contempt, nagging, whining, and any other communication strategy that could be seen as manipulative.
3. Focus on my nine fight fundamentals.
- Find commonalities. Focus on the things you agree on. Move on from there.
- What’s in it for him/her? Instead of focusing on what you want, focus on what features and benefits the other person will receive.
- Look at the whole picture. And, then look at the details.
- Clearly state what you want/need.
- Stick to the facts.
- Give everyone time to think, process the information, and cool down.
- Speak in a language the other person understands. Don’t talk feelings to your accountant.
- Be comfortable apologizing. A genuine apology can bring about profound change and healing. Often you can come out the big winner when you apologize. An apology is one way to give the “loser” an opportunity to save face.
- Get closure and finish on the positive. Each argument ends with one of three possible outcomes:
- Agree to disagree and move on
- No agreement and horns still locked. Of course, just because you’re here now doesn’t mean this is where you’ll stay. But, this is the resolution you don’t want. Remember, there is a HUGE difference between going away unhappy and going away so angry that getting a gun sounds like a good idea. If you “win” and the other side goes home and gets his gun, you lost.
Questions? Commentary? I want to hear about your arguments and how they play out. Email me – Elinor@AFriendlyDivorce.com.