Who Wants to Argue Anyway?


We all have our opinions. I know I have mine. And we live in a world where there is a lot of turmoil surrounding many topics such as politics, religion and various other social issues. This is a breeding ground for debate, which often times can turn into heated arguments. Whether it is with friends, family or co-workers, when you don’t see eye-to-eye on a subject, it is natural to want to defend your option.

However, as Dale Carnegie explains in his book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” nothing good ever comes from an argument. “I have listened to, engaged in, and watched the effect of thousands of arguments. As a result of all this, I have come to conclusion that there is only one way under high heaven to get the best of any argument — and that is to avoid it. Avoid it as you would avoid rattlesnakes and earthquakes.”

As Carnegie explained, in an argument, it is rare that you will ever end up changing the opponent’s opinion. Instead the argument will end just how it started — with both people thinking they are absolutely right. “You can’t win an argument. You can’t because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it. Why? Well, suppose you triumph over the other man and shoot his argument full of holes and prove that he is non compos mentis. Then what? You will feel fine. But what about him? You have made him feel inferior. You have hurt his pride. He will resent your triumph.”

Trying to change another’s mind is a futile endeavor. We all have our opinions and we are entitled to them. So, why get in an argument over them? Chances are, many of your student staff are still learning this lesson. To help, Carnegie shares a few suggestions that might help a disagreement from becoming an argument.

  1. Control your temper.
  2. 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 recreation. It may be you at your worst, not your best.”
  3. Welcome the disagreement.
  4. Listen first. “Give your opponents a chance to talk. Let them finish. Do not resist, defend and debate, this only raises barriers. Try to build bridges of understanding. Don’t build higher barriers of misunderstanding.”
  5. Look for areas of agreement. “When you have heard your opponents out, dwell first on the points and areas on which you agree.”
  6. Be honest. “Look for areas where you can admit error and say so. Apologize for your mistakes. It will help disarm your opponents and reduce defensiveness.”
  7. Promise to think over your opponent’s ideas and study them carefully.
  8. 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.”
  9. Postpone actions 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 the facts may be brought to bear.”
Emily Harbourne was a previous editor for Campus Rec Magazine.

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