When it comes to personalities, I’m not a die-hard, must-win-the-argument-at-all-costs kind of person. I have moments when I want to win, of course, which often has more to do with who I’m speaking with rather than the topic. But, in general, I can present my thoughts and walk away from all arguments.
How about you? It’s okay to admit it — I know some of you God wired with the desire to win every argument within hearing distance. I know others of you are even less likely to put up a fight than I am.
The question I want to consider today is this: What if winning the argument is of the utmost importance? Is there a way to always win an argument?
What if I said, “Yes.” What if I could hand you the tools to win considerably more arguments than ever before. Interested? Keep reading.
Not What You’re Thinking About Arguments
My guess as you continue reading is that you’ll be disappointed. Or perhaps outright angry with me. I also need to share that these principles come from author, speaker, and psychologist Les Parrott.
Is your guard up yet? Relax. Take a deep breath. Trust me, this is good stuff.
When you are facing off with another person, the first thing you want to keep in mind is cooperation. I know some eyebrows just went up. Yes, cooperation, even in an argument. Think of it this way: you and the other person are on the same team.
That’s easy to imagine if you are a husband and wife, or perhaps a parent and child. But also consider it’s implications if you are facing an employer/employee conflict or even a national debate!
Ultimately you want what’s best — right? Right? If you don’t then that’s a different issue you need to consider. But for the spouse, parent, employee, or citizen that truly wants what is best for those involved, then remember you are on the same side as the other person(s). This isn’t a football or soccer or baseball game. You are on the same team heading toward the same goal: God’s best.
It is rare that the full responsibility for a problem rests on the shoulders of only one person in an argument. The other person usually contributed in some way, even if it was merely through a poor attitude, response, or choice of words.
Own your piece of the problem without dismissing it as unimportant, negating it with less causality than the other person’s actions, or excusing it in any way. And then own your piece of the solution, again, without dismissing it, negating it, or excusing the lack of follow-through.
Don’t roll your eyes or offer sarcastic remarks. Don’t demean them or their contribution, and don’t assassinate their character by bringing in other failings or short comings that have nothing to do with the issue before you.
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to imagine where they are coming from. Has something happened to them (or a friend or family member) in the past that would explain their reaction? Are you attacking a passion or deeply held conviction?
Taking a moment to stop and think about these kinds of questions makes a tremendous difference in arguments. Les Parrott shared that research he’s read showed roughly 90% of the problem goes away when we take the time to be empathetic.
The Bible’s Perspective
If you’ve been reading my blog for long, then you know I’m going to pull an example from the Bible. It’s part of me, and where I strive to point you so you can find your own answers. And we always want to verify that the leaders and experts we’re following are proponents of biblical solutions.
Today, we’re going to 1 Samuel chapter 20. David and Jonathan are friends, but Jonathan’s father Saul is jealous of David. Ever since David stood up to and killed Goliath, he’s been popular. Even worse, God’s been with him, and he’s seen great success on the battlefield.
David knew Saul wanted him dead, but Jonathan struggled to believe it.
Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked, “What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to kill me?”
“Never!” Jonathan replied. “You are not going to die! Look, my father doesn’t do anything, great or small, without letting me know. Why would he hide this from me? It isn’t so!”
But David took an oath and said, “Your father knows very well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said to himself, ‘Jonathan must not know this or he will be grieved.’ Yet as surely as the Lord lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death” (verse 1-4)
Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you.”
Did you see the principles at work? Instead of getting defensive at Jonathan, David began by asking for clarification, wanting to know what part of the problem was his fault. After Jonathan’s response, David reached out in empathy, understanding the difficult place his friend was in. In the following verses, David proposes a plan of cooperation so the two men could determine the truth without putting David in harm’s way.
Cooperation, ownership, respect, and empathy. Can you think of another example from Scripture?
A Reality Check
Okay, so this is tough. I admit it. Stopping in the midst of a heated moment to offer respect or be empathetic seems unrealistic. But here’s the most amazing part of this: you don’t have to do it all!
In fact, Les Parrott affirms that if you choose just one of the four actions, others will follow. And your spouse (or the other person) will generally respond in kind, deescalating arguments in general.
Which makes it easier to find a compromise.
Which means everybody wins.
Because isn’t that what we really want? To win, but also to not lose? And when we work our way to a solution that all sides agree with, everyone wins the argument.
You might like this FREE resource from The Warrior’s Bride: Safeguarding Your Marriage