“The moment we want to believe something, we suddenly see all the arguments for it, and become blind to the arguments against it.” — George Bernard Shaw
I love to argue! Some of my colleagues refer to this, my passion, as a barbaric sport. If I must argue, then, instead of arguing, why not debate like civilized people do? Debating, they say, is more civilized and, since Man is the only creature that we’re aware of that can reason, why not help him reach for higher stratums by reason of ‘civilized’ debate, rather than ‘barbaric’ arguing?
Troubled by the restrictions and shortcomings common in formal debating, many years ago two friends of mine and I organized our own “Arguing Club” in order to satisfy our penchant to exercise our minds. But, instead of adopting the many rules found in a formal debate, we had only one rule that mattered: the person who got angry first, lost the argument! We did, however, add an addendum to this rule–an “Escape Clause” that we knew at some time we’d need, should one or all three of us become disinterested in the subject being argued and wish to just drop it, and call it “a draw.” Also, unlike a formal debate where opposite teams are given time to research their point of view, our topic for argument was mutually decided upon at the moment, allowing for no time for either parties to do research. Ours was a spur of the moment thing, and we had a reason for doing so, which I’ll get to later.
So, before I go any farther into proving the superiority of arguing over formal debate, let me state that, to stubbornly argue about anything— little things– and insist that you’re right gains you nothing. Many friendships–indeed, many marriages have suffered simply because one or both members just refuse to give in, afraid that their ‘error’ might expose a weakness in them. To the contrary. Be assured, to admit error is not a sign of weakness. In fact, to stubbornly insist on being right against all odds can show you up as being ‘brilliantly’ clueless! Instead, if you find yourself cornered where you face superior reason, take advantage of the moment and listen: open your mind to learning something new from your ‘opponent’ that you didn’t know before. In the end, that little bit of humility will thank you for it: you’re now truly on the road to getting smarter!
So, back to my ‘argument’ that arguing is superior to formal debating. Spur of the moment arguing, like my friends and I had set up, can be compared to driving peacefully along a straight stretch of road when suddenly you hit an icy patch. You can’t stop Father Time so that you can dig out the driver’s manual from your glove compartment and quickly brush up on what to do in such a slippery emergency. All that you have at your disposal now is a very heightened awareness. You’re suddenly more awake–desperate– than you’ve been during your trip up to now. Good driving habits–instructions– long forgotten, stored deep within your psych, pop up front and center as you wrestle with the emergency.
The same mental awareness happens when you properly prepare yourself for an argument. Like a crack platoon of battle-hardened troops, all your heightened senses now are front and center, ready to defend your views! Bits of information–maybe something from years back that you had glimpsed on a billboard, or heard a high school teacher say, crashes through your brain’s cobwebbed time barrier and rolls off your tongue as if it’s always been there, fresh and handy. You’re a sudden genius!
No, I don’t promise that, overnight, you’ll become a famous battle-hardened arguer, feared by all opposition. Oh, if it only were that simple! First, it’s not that simple and, like all worthwhile skills, it can take a while before you become a real challenger in the argument arena, and like the skills of any Learned Grand Master of any trade or profession, it takes a lifetime to make your opponents fear and/or respect you. Here are a few tips to help you along the way:
- Arguing and formal debating can be compared to a speaker and a listener. As in all meetings that we attend, the one giving the talk can be compared to the arguer, because he has to be more aware than the listener. The listener, for all that it matters, can fall asleep. Awareness plays an important role in turning on all your senses. Because of this heightened awareness, the speaker will always end up knowing more about the topic than the listener, no matter how much the listener concentrates on the topic.
- A true Arguer is a person who desires to learn more than the average person, and to learn it fast.
- Although we “Three Musketeers” had one rule: he who got angry first lost the argument, not once do I remember any one of us getting angry during our many sessions. That rule was just sort of a decoration that we added to help keep our arguments fun and in line.
- Did I mention that our argument sessions were designed to be fun? A lot of studies have shown that the brain learns better, and retains more of the information, when it is fun to learn.
- Back to the topic of speaker and listener, have you noticed that a good speaker, one that the public flocks to, enjoys speaking and, over the years, that makes him ever more proficient in his speaking skill, and develops a broader span of knowledge? The key here is, have fun and it will all come to you!
- Don’t be shy about taking the opposite or disliked view when a topic is presented. It’s usually easy to win the argument if you take the ‘popular’ side of the view and one that you’re familiar with, but just spewing out a bunch of known information does little in sharpening your quick-thinking skills, nor will it help broaden your knowledge-horizons. Taking the opposite view in discussions, especially unpopular ones, is a common practice among lawyers when learning their trade. That’s why the good ones seldom loose a case! Besides, it’s taking the opposite view that brings out your platoon of crack self-awareness troops.
- Be selective in choosing whom you wish to engage in an argument. There are far more people out there who are more interested in picking a fight with you rather than engaging you in mental competition! Not heeding this advice can even put you in physical harms’ way. If your opponent shows any sign of anger, quit the discussion! Believe me, an angry or frustrated person cannot be swayed to accept even the most simple truth. That is why politicians rarely go out and meet with a demonstrating crowd. An angry crowd is a closed-minded crowd!