The key to “winning” any argument is to recognize that some arguments not only can’t be won, but shouldn’t be “won.”
Arguments take place in one of two contexts:
- Unimportant Relationship
- Important Relationship
(Notice how the two categories are MECE… I couldn’t help myself. 🙂 …)
How you approach arguments in these situations can vary tremendously.
From a purely logical standpoint, an argument can be analyzed and dissected, facts gathered, and conclusions presented.
The skills needed to do this are precisely the skills that case interviews test.
However, not all arguments can or should be “won.”
In classic debate terms, to “win” a debate is to thoroughly eviscerate your opponent’s position by exploiting logical flaws and providing evidence in support of your assertion.
However, whether it is worth winning or not depends a lot on what kind of relationship you have with the other person.
Here’s an example.
Let’s say you’re driving down the road when the car next to you cuts into your lane abruptly.
Now let’s say that you were clearly in the right. You were following all the rules of the road.
The other driver was clearly at fault.
You have a few options for how (and whether) you make your argument.
- You could honk your horn, yell what you really think at the other driver, and provide some sign language to express your perspective.
- You could honk your horn, force the other driver to pull over, and let that person know what you really think.
- You could honk your horn to let the other driver know you’re in the lane in case he or she wasn’t aware.
- You could just let things go and share your frustrations with someone else after the fact.
I’m not going to argue which approach is the right approach.
However, I am going to argue that the right approach depends on the situational, relational, and emotional context of the situation.
Let’s say you force the other driver to the side of the road, get out of the car, and start yelling at the other driver… only to realize the other driver is your boss, mother, or spouse.
Relational context matters.
Now let’s change the situation.
This time you also force the other driver to the side of the road, get out of the car, and start yelling your logical argument at the other driver… only to realize the driver is clutching his heart and has a look of panic on his face.
Situational and emotional context matters.
Yes, you’re “right.” But if the other person is panicking from a heart attack, does it really matter that you’re “right”… and does your assertion that your argument is “right” need to take place right now?
When you “argue,” it’s very useful to consider the relationship you have, would like to have, or would like to continue to have with the other person.
You may have the argument “won” on the basis of logic, but it takes an emotionally intelligent person to recognize and consider the relational, situational, and emotional context before deciding how to respond.
Your intellectual intelligence (IQ) tells you if your thinking is right or wrong.
Your emotional intelligence (EQ) tells you what you should and should not do when you’re right (or wrong).
If you operate only on IQ, you will win many arguments in your life and career, but you’ll also lose a lot of relationships.
If you fail to use your EQ to consider the relational, situational, and emotional context of a situation, you will alienate others.
Alienating others is not a good way to have a happy personal life or a successful career.
I recently taught a class on How to Develop Your Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to Advance Your Career. In the class, I shared how to develop your skill level in each facet of EQ, including situational awareness.
I’ve decided to release my program on How to Develop Your EQ in a limited release next month. If you missed the class and would be interested in learning from it, you can join my notification list for the release by submitting the form below.
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