“If you argue and rankle and contradict, you may achieve a victory sometimes;
but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent’s good will.”
Human Relations Principle #10: The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
(“You can’t win an argument.”)
(This is the tenth in a series of articles where I will encapsulate each of Dale Carnegie’s timeless, life-changing principles for dealing with people. (Adapted from How to Win Friends and Influence People.))*
“There is only one way under high heaven to get the best of an argument – and that is to avoid it. Avoid it as you would avoid rattlesnakes and earthquakes.”
Buddha said: “Hatred is never ended by hatred but by love,” and a misunderstanding is never ended by an argument but by tact, diplomacy, conciliation and a sympathetic desire to see the other person’s viewpoint.
Nine times out of ten, an argument ends with each of the contestants more firmly convinced than ever that he is absolutely right.
A man convinced against his will
Is of the same opinion still.
You may be right, dead right, as you speed along in your argument; but as far as changing another’s mind is concerned, you will probably be just as futile as if you were wrong.
How to Keep a Disagreement from Becoming an Argument
(Adapted from “Bits and Pieces,” The Economics Press, Fairfield, N.J.)
- Welcome the disagreement: Remember the slogan, “When two partners always agree, one of them is not necessary.” If there is some point you haven’t thought about, be thankful if it is brought to your attention. Perhaps the disagreement is your opportunity to be corrected before you make a serious mistake.
- Distrust your first instinctive impression. Our first natural reaction in a disagreeable situation is to be defensive. Be careful. Keep calm and watch out for your first reaction. It may be you at your worst, not your best.
- Control your temper. Remember that you can measure the size of a person by what makes him angry.
- Listen first. Give the other person a chance to talk. Let them finish. Do not resist, defend or debate. This only raises barriers. Try to build bridges of understanding. Don’t build higher bridges of misunderstanding.
- Look for areas of agreement. When you have heard the other person out, dwell first on the points and areas on which you agree.
- Be honest. Look for areas where you can admit error and say so. Apologize for your mistakes. It will help disarm the other person and reduce defensiveness.
- Promise to think over and study others’ ideas carefully. And mean it. Your opponents may be right. It is a lot easier at this stage to agree to think about their points than to move rapidly ahead and find yourself in a position where your opponents can say: “We tried to tell you, but you wouldn’t listen.
- Thank your opponents sincerely for their interest. Anyone who takes the time to disagree with you is interested in the same things you are. Think of them as people who really want to help you, and you may turn your opponents into friends.
- Postpone action to give both sides time to think through the problem. Suggest that a new meeting be held later that day or the next day when all facts may be brought to bear.
This week, let’s choose not to allow ourselves to get sucked into an argument.
Much success and fulfillment with mastering human relations,
* The best guide on effective human relations that I have ever encountered is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, published in 1936. Prior to writing the book, Carnegie spent 20 years researching the habits of successful people. The book has sold over 30 million copies and is still listed on Amazon’s top 100 best selling books.
Other articles within this series you may enjoy:
3 Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
- Human Relations Principle #1: Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
- Human Relations Principle #2: Give honest and sincere appreciation.
- Human Relations Principle #3: Arouse in the other person an eager want.
6 Ways to Make People Like You
- Human Relations Principle #4: Become genuinely interested in other people.
- Human Relations Principle #5: Smile.
- Human Relations Principle #6: Remember that a person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
- Human Relations Principle #7: Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
- Human Relations Principle #8: Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
- Human Relations Principle #9: Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.