Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Do you like winning arguments?
I used to—a lot. I was self-programmed to win arguments or bust.
Proving someone wrong meant victory. Emerging as the winner made me feel I was better than the losing side. Arguing, however, always ended in a win/lose situation; or worse, lose/lose when the issue remained unresolved.
Knowing how predisposed I was to arguing, my boss would remind me: “Grace, winning a battle means losing the war.”
That never used to make sense, but now I see it all too clearly.
His advice: “If you want to get an idea/proposal approved, which your client dislikes, here's how to deflect the temptation of arguing with him: 1) listen; 2) let him talk his heart out; 3) tell him you get his point; 4) agree; then 5) throw in your idea little by little in the process. Before you know it, your brilliant thoughts become his. He gets the credit, but you get your idea/proposal approved. You win the war.”
My boss never said those exact words. In fact, he never spelled out anything for me; but by the way he modeled getting 100% approvals, he might well have orated them.
It took years, and a lot of burst self control, before I stopped arguing.
Today, I refuse to argue. The itch is there, but the energy is gone. (Or maybe, even the itch has gone pffft.)
It takes energy-sapping passion to prove that someone is wrong and that you are right. And for what? You gain an enemy; you lose an ally.
Jesus never argued. He replied to smart-alecky, provocative taunts with wisely spoken parables. He deflected anger that comes with arguing. It was not for lack of energy, it was for winning people to what was right.
He lost his temper once. It happened when he went to the temple and saw the money changers robbing people of the opportunity to worship God. Jesus was so angry that John said in 2:15, “So he made a whip of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.”
Although he would not allow God's house to be used to rob genuine worship, Jesus did not go into any argument. He took decisive action, showing rightful indignation.
So there. If you think you ought to argue and win, don't. Take it from a reformed arguer.
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