There’s a funny scene in one of my favorite movies, “My Cousin Vinny,” where Bill, the cousin of Vinny, is justifying Vinny’s ability to defend him and his friend in a trial:
Bill: You have to see the Gambinis in action. I mean, these people, they love to argue. I mean, they live to argue.
Stan: My parents argue too, it doesn’t make them good lawyers.
Bill: Stan, I’ve seen your parents argue. Trust me, they’re amateurs.
I think it’s a safe bet that every Italian-American who saw that movie laughed as they nodded their heads in agreement. There’s just something about Italians and arguing.
When I was in my twenties, I took a summer to travel throughout Europe. I left Italy last on my list because I really wanted to savor it. It indeed was beautiful in many ways and the people were charming.
However, I found it amusing that I immediately felt at home in the marketplace because so many people were arguing. Most of them communicated this way with each other.
I was standing in line, waiting to pay for a piece of fruit. The girl in front of me turned around and asked if I had change. I understand her Italian because I studied it in college, but before I could respond, an old woman behind me started berating the girl, saying, “What do you think… she’s a bank? Go get your change from one of the vendors!”
The old woman then turned to me and patted my cheek, smiled and said, “You a good girl!”
Arguments are good for the courtroom but not much else
My brother, by the way, is a trial lawyer.
He spent his teen years arguing with my father, so I guess he fell into it early. But arguing with others will rarely get you anywhere.
The more you argue with someone, the more that person will dig in their heels to prove that they’re right. At a certain point, it doesn’t matter if you show them all the facts in the world that prove you’re right and they’re wrong. They’ll just keep on believing what they want.
What is at stake is often that person’s view of himself or herself. If your co-worker does give in and admit you’re right and he’s wrong, what happens?
Resentment. Jealousy. And you’ve potentially laid the groundwork for some type of revenge.
Is it worth it?
You can measure the size of a person by what makes him angry
People who engage others in constant arguments are often seen as small. The phrase, “Well, that’s big of you…” refers to a person’s ability to overlook an offense or be generous with their kindness or compassion.
When you’re able to avoid someone’s attempt to draw you into an argument, you look better for it. You come across as wise. Above pettiness. All good things when you want to be remembered as someone who gets along with people.
Those who are argumentative, who react strongly to others who don’t agree with them – are usually not a favorite guest on the party list.
The best way to win an argument is to avoid it
If your inclination is to argue whenever someone challenges your position on anything, try something different.
Instead, try agreeing with your opponent. Avoid the argument by admitting that the other person is right. I know this can be very difficult (I’m half-Italian, remember), but where does it get you?
You will rarely change anyone’s mind. Meanwhile, if you’re in a business situation and your prospect is insisting that your competitor has a superior product, it’s challenging to overlook it. But if you take the position of agreeing with your prospect and say yes, the competitor does indeed have a great product, you just accomplished something significant.
In essence, you took the wind out of the prospect’s sails. Now what will they do? They can’t very well keep arguing because you just agreed with them.
So now you have the opportunity of talking about something else and then shifting the conversation toward the value your business brings to the table.
You’ve given consideration to your prospect while treating him with respect.
It’s hard to argue with that kind of an approach!
Aim for agreements
Ben Franklin said this:
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.
Good will comes from respect. When you make someone feel important, the rewards are many. Acknowledging that someone may have a good point in an argument can go a long way toward smoothing over any disagreement.
In the long run, you’ll earn a reputation for being diplomatic and easing yourself out from passionate arguments that only cause division.
If you focus on the common ground with someone, they’ll be more agreeable to listen to what you have to say. And that’s a goal worth winning.