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Saturday / July 16 / 2011

6 Reasons why no one ever wins an argument

I have a confession to make. I like to argue. And so does my husband. If we go several weeks with no debate, our palms get sweaty.

To illustrate, allow me to share a personal story. One evening about three years into our marriage, I was getting ready to go to a meeting at church. One of us said something that hurt the other’s feelings and before we knew it, we were fully engaged in a heated argument. When we couldn’t seem to find any more words to hurl at each other, I swiped my arm across the top of the dresser, pushing everything onto the floor.

Without saying a word, he looked me dead in the eye and proceeded to empty the top of the night stand. I responded by promptly marching into the bathroom and clearing all FIVE shelves of toiletries onto the floor.

Oh yes… we were a sight! It was then I glanced at the clock, realized it was time to go be holy, and left.

Lesson learned? No one ever wins an argument. Here’s why:

(1) Someone always gets hurt. If you fight to the death, you will undeniably (and possibly irreversibly) wound his heart.

(2) You demean your lover. Forcing the issue of how right you are can only prove how insignificant, unimportant, and under-valued he is.

(3) You further the divide. By pushing him to the other side of the lake, you make it more and more difficult to find common ground. And I guarantee the divide will show itself in your sex life as well.

(4) You trade your best player to the opposing team. You force lack of unity, game plan and team camaraderie. Instead, you foster scheming for the rematch.

(5) You absolutely cannot take steps forward. Winning will not advance your relationship, it will only advance your ability to say, “me, me, me!”

(6) Most importantly, you win nothing! If you think you win bragging rights for “being right”, consider what that means. Most often, it means you get to rub your partner’s face in how wrong he is (the natural side effect of how right you are). Your victory leaves him feeling hurt, worthless, stupid and weak. Good job – you WON! (sarcasm intended).

The one-upping Skip-n-I demonstrated that evening didn’t win either of us anything, except a big mess to clean and wasted time which could have been spent doing what we love to do most: hang out with each other.

When I sheepishly arrived home a couple hours later, feeling like a complete idiot, Skip greeted me at the door with a knowing smile. I could see that in my absence, he had cleaned the entire mess (and bonus, threw out some expired cough syrup).

Arguing is not only normal and healthy, it’s necessary for the survival of any couple. The key is knowing BEFORE things get heated up, that it’s not a competition. No one person “wins” an argument. It’s only a win if it’s done together, and that takes compromise.

NOTE: This post is about why no one every “wins” an argument. Stay tuned for more posts about Learning the Art of Arguing. Believe me, there’s much more to say!

12 responses to “6 Reasons why no one ever wins an argument”

  1. Ali, I LOVE your honesty. And all that you wrote is true. But…the reason why skip can’t get enough of you is because you had the guts to go for ALL of the five bathroom shelves. Lol! He knew he was in for the ride of his life when he crashed into you. And I love it. You are the real.

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Good point, kiT, we did start with a crash (more here for anyone unfamiliar with the story: http://bit.ly/g04AoO). Thanks so much for your comment. Your love and support mean so much! YOU are for real, too and I miss our frank-n-honest convos over wine.

  2. Cindy Brown says:

    Perfect reality Donna. I wish De and I had read it before the morning argument we had. Though I must say I am not a “mess things up” kinda person. It always hurts my heart when I see things we worked so hard to get/keep or make, get damaged.
    De, not so much!

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Arguing is good, Cin (not fun, but healthy). It’s important to talk things through and not allow them to fester. Feelings are valid. It’s the competition that’s not good. Unfortunately, I’m not aware of an easy or perfect way to argue, but I do believe there’s an art which can be learned over time. More on that soon. Thanks so much for reading.

  3. Personally, you also need to understand ‘how’ you and your partner argue best i.e. what’s the best way for each other to better understand the other person so you do have a chance of turning these situations into ‘win-win’ outcomes.

    And that’s the entire reason for having a debate – so your relationship as a whole benefits and moves forward.


    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Very nicely said, Martin. Thanks so much for your comments. There is definitely an art to arguing and it has everything to do with learning more about yourself and your partner, and “how” you best communicate (and argue) with one another.

      • You know, Donna. Pam and I rarely even mention the word ‘argue’. For me, anyway, that’s a negative word whereas we mostly prefer the word ‘resolution’.

        I know this is very much language. As it turns out, that very language directs the intent on the direction where you wish to end up i.e. we both want a resolution and often times this takes a lot of the heat out of the differences.

        Oh and by the way, think about a guest post over and GeekandJock – would love that. You can check the modest guidelines at http://www.geekandjock.com/content/guest-post-guidelines

        • Donna Smaldone says:

          Ah yes… there’s a whole blog post in itself: choosing your words wisely because words matter (in fact, believe it or not, it’s already on my editorial calendar!)

          Wow… so honored about the guest post! This will be my first one. Thanks for the opportunity, Martin. Perhaps it should be about the aforementioned topic! Cheers!

          • Words get even more challenging when your partner is from a different culture/country too 🙂 – believe me!

            Great learning experience though and makes for an interesting life.

            Any post should be something you’re passionate about so if you’d like this one, all good – only caveat is it needs to be original non-published content, lest Google will look unkindly on the content (to be avoided).

  4. DeRonda Hastings says:

    Wow. This one is on the money Donna. (and nice to know we aren’t the only ones. :o) I may vow right now that THIS is your entry I shall re-visit until i have all SIX points drilled into my brain!
    (…and yes, as Miss tattle-tail mentioned above, I am the one with a temper; but nice to know I am in good company! ;O)

  5. Donna Smaldone says:

    Try this on, De: “I am very impassioned” — see how that feels vs. “with a temper”. Feelings are valid… ALL feelings. You have permission, and the right, to feel angry, hurt and disappointed. The key is taking the time to work into yourself these six points of why — no matter how hard you try — you’ll never win an argument. You canNOT accomplish this once you’re all fired up, so work on it outside those moments.

    A big “a ha” moment Skip-n-I had was realizing how much time we were throwing away trying to win arguments. I know how much you LOVE hanging out with Cin, so give this a try: the next time you find yourself in the middle of a heated argument… PAUSE… look her in the eyes, take her hands (if she’ll let you)… and tell her how much you love her. Lemme know how it goes.

  6. m2admin says:

    Test comment with subscription on the new site.

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