Nobody really wins an argument.
That’s one of the hardest lessons to learn — not just for hotheaded politicians and talking heads, but for all of us.
It wasn’t until my late 20s that I began to have some understanding of that. In high school or college, I jumped at every opportunity to insert my opinion — and I mean every opportunity.
Someone in class says something about guns? I’m talking.
Someone at dinner says something about the president? I’m in it.
Someone at work says something about religion? You better believe I’m opening my big mouth.
Often, the conversation would turn contentious and even personal. If I “knew” I was right, you and everyone around us was about to hear why. It wasn’t a good look.
I’ve gotten better, but I still struggle with avoiding some disagreements. It takes nearly all my willpower to refrain from inserting my opinion on a Facebook debate on LeBron James’ legacy in professional basketball or the Cold War’s continual impact on American culture.
Generally, however, I can avoid most debates. It makes Thanksgiving dinner at my grandparents’ house much more pleasant.
The turning point for me was about three years ago. At a dinner, one of my friends expressed an opinion I disagreed with. I gave my two cents, they gave their two cents. They added a fact, and I said their fact was false. Things got heated. But when we looked up their said fact, we found that it was (gasp) indeed true. Confirmed on multiple, credible sources, too. I’d been beaten and embarrassed.
Here’s the thing, though: my opinion on the subject remained unchanged. I had, by all measures, lost the argument. Not only that, but it was shown that I was not informed on the subject enough to have an opinion on it.
I began thinking about some of the more heated arguments I’ve had before — arguments that I was convinced I had won. Did my opponent’s opinions change?
Probably not. The only thing changed was likely our friendship. How many relationships had I strained because I was so stubborn and hotheaded? One was more than enough. It was time to stop. In most cases, a difference in opinion is not worth losing friends.
This has weighed on my mind quite a bit in recent weeks. With reports regarding mass shootings and FBI investigations filling our airwaves and social media timelines, it’s all but impossible to avoid intense disagreements. Everyone wants to weigh in, and they want to do so in a passionate manner. Some of these opinions are well-informed and some are ignorant. But very few minds will change with new information.
I’ll still talk with someone I disagree with, and I’ll let them know why I disagree with them. But the difference now is the lack of anger in my tone. I’m not trying to convince them that I’m right. I’m only expressing why I view something a certain way.
If I’m given new information, I’ll take it. Life is far too short to lose friends over a small disagreement.