In college, I heard of a teacher who would pass out a bulletin entitled, How to Fail this Class. His hope was that students would read it, learn to identify common traps, and do the opposite. I hope that you will use this post in a similar manner. All of the items are commonsense. Yet, people continue to fall into these traps daily. I have been guilty of doing a few of them myself, and I bet you have too. If you have been around an excessive amount of disagreements this week, you can use this list to make sure you are not a part of the problem.
Here are five quick and easy ways to initiate an argument:
1. Adopt a one-size-fits-all approach.
Imagine walking into your favorite department store and discovering that all of the clothes are the exact same size. When you ask the clerk about this he states, “Yes, this is a very popular size, so it’s now the only one we carry.” Chances are if you stayed in that department store long enough, you would hear a number of arguments take place. In fact, you might even get into a disagreement with the manager yourself.
Of course, department stores don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. They value our business far too much. Yet, people take a one-size-fits-all approach to problem solving every day. When giving advice, it is common for people to recommend their solution as, “the right way.” As you can imagine, a rigid approach to problem solving is an excellent way to pick a fight.
2. Use the words “always” and “never”.
Use the words “always” and “never”, and you will find yourself caught up in argument before finishing your sentence. These words lead to responses like, “I don’t always ________ (fill in the blank with whatever topic you would like to argue about). Do you remember that time two years ago? I didn’t do that then!” “Always” and “never” are strong words that invite people to find an exception to the rule.
3. Say, “You’re wrong.”
Dale Carnagie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, suggests eliminating the words “You’re wrong” from one’s vocabulary. These words are difficult to accept and lead to defensiveness. Saying, “You’re wrong” is another simple way to begin a heated conversation.
4. Don’t listen in a way that makes the other person feel heard.
Have you ever told someone, “You’re not listening to me”, only to have him or her parrot back your exact words? This can be incredibly frustrating. There is a big difference between having someone listen to your words, and consider what you are saying. Averting eye contact, rolling one’s eyes, and an eagerness to speak, are all ways of communicating, “I’ve made up my mind. I don’t really care what you have to say, and am only interested in convincing you that I am right.”
5. Keep engaging with an angry person.
Arguments have secondary gains. They are exciting, engaging, and attract attention. Therapists use the word “maladaptive” to describe these types of behaviors. Engaging in frequent arguments is harmful, but also serves a purpose. If you seek out an angry person and engage with him or her long enough, an argument is sure to take place.
Understanding why arguments start is a great first step in reducing them. While not all disagreements are bad, arguing frequently is stressful and unhealthy.
What do you think? Have you been guilty of doing any of these things? If you have additional strategies to add to this list, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.