Is winning an argument worth it?
In this article I will summarise some of the principles in Part Three – How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking – of Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends & Influence People” *.
Principle 1 – The best way to win an argument is to avoid it.
Carnegie writes that winning an argument is pointless if it is only to prove to the other person that they are wrong and you are right. An argument generally ends with each person more firmly entrenched in the belief that they are right.
Benjamin Franklin gives this wisdom: If you argue and rankle and contradict, you may achieve a victory sometimes; but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent’s good will.
The important point to ponder is, do I want to have this person’s good will, or do I just want to “win”? It is highly unlikely that one of you is 100% right and the other 100% wrong.
Appreciate and listen to the other person; find common ground; be honest; and don’t get angry. Establish and maintain a good relationship.
Principle 2 – Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”
In this principle, Carnegie highlights the importance of considering the other person’s point of view. Putting ourselves in the other person’s position not only expands our understanding, it also causes the other person to become less rigid in their position.
Principle 3 – If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
How often do we make a mistake and refuse to admit it?
A common example (unfortunately) of not following this principle is seen in politics. A politician says something or acts in a manner unbecoming of their position. They and/or their office deny the deed and cite many reasons why this is acceptable.
Eventually the truth wins out and we wonder why they didn’t admit their mistake in the first place. We would have held them in higher esteem had they been honest and upfront.
Let’s set a good example.
Principle 4 – Begin in a friendly way.
You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
We have all proved the truth of getting further with another person by being friendly rather than being adversarial.
Make your opening remarks friendly, and you will reap the benefits.
Principle 5 – Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.
Carnegie talks about getting “yes, yes” from a person rather than “no” using the method Socrates used in ancient times. Socrates framed questions in a way which caused the other person to agree. He continued on in this manner until he received multiple “yeses”.
Much easier than saying, “you are wrong”.
Principle 6 – Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
This principle is important in all spheres of life, but how much more so with those who are most precious to us – our family?
Do I listen to my partner? My teen? My child? Do I really know what takes place in their mind?
I wonder, how different would your relationships be if you let others do the talking and listened carefully?
How would you rate yourself on these principles? Is there one you need to work on more?
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*Carnegie, D. How to win friends and influence people. William Collins Publishers: North Ryde. 1989, pp. 143-190