When you win an argument, what are you really gaining?

Photo by Johnson Wang on Unsplash

We don’t have to look far in this world, to find examples of people wanting to win arguments. As politicians and commentators volley insults back and forth across our media, the name of the game seems to be an end goal of shame and “shutting down” the opponent.

Sometimes these examples are closer to home — like an argument between partners about who has had the harder day. Or that unspoken glare in traffic between drivers of “are you stupid?” as two cars avoid a collision.

It is all too easy to slip into “I’m right, you’re wrong” thinking — or even “I’m wrong, you’re right” resignation, but how productive is either outcome? When we win an argument, what are we really gaining?

I personally know that victory feels hollow, if I’ve driven home my rebuttal and the person I’m speaking to withdraws. Sure, I might be “right” but did I really get what I wanted?

Most of the time, what we truly want is a connection with the other person — and beating them in an argument actually creates the reverse — a disconnection. When we blame, judge, grovel, bully, submit, discriminate, speak over someone without listening, criticise, react defensively, or use political rhetoric to put ourselves above the argument, we miss a precious opportunity to connect.

Marshall Rosenberg (PhD) called this kind of language “violent,” because it most often results in harm and hurt. He developed a technique to allow people to express themselves honestly, in a way that’s conducive to truly being heard (rather than being shut out).

The power of his work cannot be underestimated…

If you’re interested in learning more about this technique, I’m teaching a program called Common Ground, this November in Orange, NSW. We’ll delve into Rosenberg’s work, as well as looking at the ancient art of persuasion.

If you enjoy the clarity, calm and grounding of holistic practices like yoga*, this teaching takes it to the next level by helping to shape how you understand your most important relationships and interact with others.

*(although knowledge of yoga is definitely not a requirement of this course).

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