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Positively Speaking: Arguments


By Toby Moore

For Capital Region Independent Media

Headshot of man named Toby Moore
Toby Moore

In my formative years, I often chose silence over confrontation, retreating rather than facing the storm.

While there’s merit in sidestepping conflict, I’ve realized that a well-constructed argument can illuminate hidden truths and pave the way for genuine healing in certain situations.

Let’s confront a reality: Our world seems more divisive than ever. Social media amplifies differences, news outlets fuel polarizing views, and personal beliefs become fortified fortresses, impenetrable to outside perspectives. It’s vital to discern when to engage and when to retreat.

Is arguing synonymous with fighting? Not necessarily, though the lines often blur. At its best, an argument can be a passionate exchange of ideas — a debate where parties respect boundaries, stick to facts, and prioritize understanding over being understood.

A delicate balance exists; sometimes, a mere divergence of views can unexpectedly escalate into something more contentious.

What about author Dale Carnegie’s advice in the groundbreaking book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People?”

In the book, he describes how nobody ever wins an argument. If you win, you lose; if you lose, you lose. He suggests that winning an argument comes at the expense of a relationship and often feels like losing.

Nine times out of ten, an argument ends with each contestant more firmly convinced than ever that they are right. He believed that arguments fail to change the opposing party’s mind and create a barrier.

In most circumstances, he’s correct, and we must learn to choose our battles.

In professional settings, tread carefully. Avoid disputes with business partners, co-workers, superiors, or anyone you might seek assistance from. Disagreeing with acquaintances or those you’re just getting to know rarely fosters rapport.

Consider this scenario: You’re talking with an individual you’ve recently met, seeking guidance on a new business venture. The topic unexpectedly shifts to the forthcoming presidential election, and it becomes evident you’re on opposite sides of the fence. Is debating your stance likely to garner their support? Chances are, it won’t.

Recently, I came across an enlightening article in Psychology Today that posited that arguing, at times, can be beneficial. It can serve as a lens, helping you discern the other person’s viewpoint more distinctly and fostering mutual understanding.

There’s a notable exception: the effectiveness diminishes when one isn’t receptive to the alternate stance, lacks flexibility, or when emotions run too high. Under these circumstances, things can quickly devolve.

Think about a couple arguing over something small, like who forgot to take out the trash. In no time, they’re bringing up old problems and yelling. Doing this too much destroys the relationship.

What about two old friends? They’ve grown to have different beliefs about politics and religion: A simple talk can get heated fast.

The cost of relentless arguing is far steeper than strained relationships. Prolonged exposure to such stressful situations can lead to traumatic responses, evoking symptoms akin to PTSD in some individuals. The body’s constant high alert — fight or flight — can have severe mental and physical repercussions.

A profound truth lies at the heart of every argument: we can choose our reaction. Every argument offers an opportunity — a chance not to escalate, not to wound, but to understand.

Conflict is natural, but how we handle it defines its outcome. This is where conflict resolution shines. Instead of positioning oneself against the other, one could try to bridge the gap. Active listening, asking open-ended questions, and validating feelings can turn a potentially volatile situation into a productive conversation.

I say to protect the relationship. A moment of understanding is better than a lifetime of regrets.

There’s a significant difference between arguing to understand and arguing to win. The former helps us evolve, while the latter only holds us back.

Instead of diving headfirst into every argument, we must choose which battles are worth our energy.

When tempers flare, and voices rise, take a deep breath. Remember that every choice, every word spoken and action sets us on a trajectory. By consciously choosing understanding over hate and compassion over confrontation, we preserve our peace and pave the way for deeper and better relationships.

In every disagreement, let’s prioritize understanding. In every argument, strive for unity. Only then can we bridge divides and foster more profound, lasting connections with one another.

Toby Moore is a columnist, the star of Emmy-nominated “A Separate Peace,” and the CEO of Cubestream Inc.

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