Fighting Etiquette for Higher Value Outcomes

We don’t always have to agree, you know that right? It surely feels good when we do, but it is not the end of the world when we don’t. Guess what, I can even not agree with you over more than one issue and still like you very much; hell, i can even love you and still disagree with you.

Now that’s set, what do we do when we disagree? On a basic level, we have the urge to convince one another, one argument might be stronger than the other, maybe both arguments are logical in their own right and still we are nowhere near changing sides. A possible outcome is frustration, and with certain people for certain subjects anger shows its teeth. If we were animals, the one with bigger scarier teeth would win; but we wont resort to that now would we?

Let’s talk about arguing in a manner where neither party gets bitten, smitten or ripped apart.

Being cool headed is not everyone’s skill but it ought to be. Who here loses their ability to think straight when angry? Who here fumes when the opposite party does not seem to get it AT ALL? There is a way around this, we just need to learn how to fight better.

So what does fighting better mean?

Initially, fighting is a last resort, by that we are talking about red faces, stress signals going off everywhere and general dismissal of the other party’s right to be here for “that” reason. The trick is not to get carried away with the frustration; but to catch it and twist it on its head.

When we are getting frustrated we feel unheard, we feel inferior and misunderstood. The upside – ironically- is that the other party is feeling that way too. So we must in that second notice that and pause. What do we want to get out of that interaction? What are we really fighting or disagreeing over? And finally can we do it alone? Meaning if we walk away from the argument right now, will it come back to bite us later? Do we need the cooperation of the other party?

Most of the times when we are arguing with a loved one, a friend or a colleague, we are hoping to get them into our boat so that we could set sail somewhere meaningful. So yes, this post is about needing cooperation to get somewhere. If you were at it alone, you can just move on and do it yourself. However, needing others means we need to learn how to play for the win, and better yet, we need to learn how to lose and how to tie.

When arguing never get personal, never tell someone that they are “bad” at something or that they for some personal reasons don’t get it. We must always keep a certain degree of grace in misunderstandings. We must maintain that emotions run high and words shoot higher and deeper. Notice when the ego starts to talk and try to bring it back to the issue. Learn your limits and don’t exceed them but also don’t force someone else to exceed theirs. It sounds perfect, but it’s not; cooperation requires believing in the value that your opposite is bringing to the table; and if there is no value to you, then why are you even trying to get them in that boat with you?

Learn that the best teams and partnerships are not between people who are great together in good and easy times, but between people who know how to argue with each other to come out the other side better off. There is no shame in backing down, on the contrary those who know when to cave are those who recognize the value of moving out of their own way and letting things happen. We can choose to be children with a limited capacity for understanding values beyond our direct reward. We can grab on to our argument and refuse to let it go; because we are seeking the reward of being right, but in doing so we are losing a valuable partnership.

At the end it is a choice. We are either working together towards a higher purpose, or we are competing and keeping score of who is right more often. The problem is not with the disagreement itself, but with how we choose to carry ourselves through it.

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