Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash: Pick Two (aghrivaine) wrote,
Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash: Pick Two

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New Year's Resolution

Many of you scoffed at my New Year's Resolution - namely, not to argue with anyone about anything. I'm sure on the face of it, it must have seemed like a whim, a passing fancy that would last as long as the average "i'm really gonna lose those ten pounds this year" resolution. Which is to say - about as long as virgin altar-boy ass in the Vatican.

But, actually, it was something I'd carefully considered (not everything I do is by impulse, all appearances to the contrary) and not as innocent a move as might seem. At first glance, it must seem like the bashful reform of someone who argues too much (Me? Hell no, and if you disagree I'll...err, wait...) and too often. And while a few pointless and too lengthy arguments in the last year were perhaps the germ of the idea, this is not, as you might think, a move to give up persuasion altogether. And it's not as hard as you might think either.

See, I've read the "48 Laws of Power" - and one of the laws that's always stood out for me is:

 Law 9

Win through your Actions, Never through Argument

Any momentary triumph you think gained through argument is really a Pyrrhic victory:  The resentment and ill will you stir up is stronger and lasts longer than any momentary change of opinion.  It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, without saying a word.  Demonstrate, do not explicate.

Arguing does less to persuade people than you might think. How many people are really open-minded enough to change their opinion about something when confronted with a convincing argument that is contrary to their emotional reaction, anyway? I know, I know - just like every blessed one of you prefers honesty - no matter how brutal - to a facile lie, I'm sure each of you is the sort of brave and flexible person who has both the courage of conviction and the mental resilience to seek what's actually right, rather than what feels right. And I don't mean that as cynically as it sounds - my friends are a pretty impressive lot, and if you judge a man by the company he keeps, I think that makes me a morally upright, largely dependable, wicked smart, zany nerd. Because that's what most of you are. So yeah, you're the exception to the law, you prefer truth over comfort, correctness over being "right". (Except yagathai, who, as we all know, will never admit to being wrong, whatever the cost. Because, as he'll gladly tell you, he's never actually wrong. And I'm not arguing....)

I have not, therefore abandoned defending things that I think are important. Instead, I'm trying to find different ways to persuade, when it's really important. An obvious first step with this is - don't bother with anything that's not really important, because finding ways to persuade through action or example requires forethought, and often, hard work. I don't have the time or energy to spend that much effort on every little squabble. So step one - you can't pick every hill to die on. Learn to pick the hills that are worth dying for.

It's been easier than I might have thought. A few times, I caught myself starting to dig in on something that didn't matter - it is, after all, a long habit of mine, and not something I'm going to stop doing by reflex overnight. And listen - if I do end up getting in one argument, or start to argue and then catch myself - or whatever, I haven't "broken" my resolution, and I'll just go back to business-as-usual. This is a sustained effort to reduce the amount of conflict in my life by a: not fighting about things that don't matter and b: doing so by means that might actually work.

In the better part of a month, no arguments so far. A couple of times, I've started to disagree with someone, and realized it was headed for an argument. In those cases, I've stated my feelings on the matter - and the reasoning behind those feelings - and then dropped the discussion. This is suprisingly effective - it's like going "all in" in poker. The person disagreeing with me finds himself with nothing to grab onto - I offer no further resistance. Once or twice it's even worked, there was a friendly argument at work about politics that I walked away from after stating my case. A few hours later, I got sheepish emails -the person who wanted to argue with me went and did some research to back up his point... and realized he'd been wrong. AHA! That's what I'm after. If we'd argued about it - no matter how casually, he would have had a stake in being "right", and never bothered to do any research - or if he had, pride would have kept him from looking at what he found objectively. By not making him feel defensive, and letting him come to his own conclusion - I actually made my point anyway.

Dude. I'm on to something here.

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