My boss doesn't have much technical skill in Software Engineering, so he's often wrong about technical details, and I'm often right.
But he has a winning point:
War doesn't determine who is right, only who is left.
– The Montreal Star
Winning an argument or a debate is a matter of communication skills rather than owning the truth. I'm gradually learning this truth, for I genuinely excel in being right while being perceived to be wrong.
ONLY RESULTS MATTER
nothing personal, it's just business
In our modern world, martyrdom is akin to getting involved in arguments with more powerful parties that are against you. Or against your version of the truth.
Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.
– NOT Mark Twain
I want to take liberty and propose a reviewed version of this famous quote:
Never argue with POWERFUL people, they will drag you UP to their level and beat you with experience.
– Myself, after a tough week
Recap so far:
- Losing it to powerful people prevents you from reaching your goals
- Debating with powerful people is seldom about contents,
but rather about their rhetoric
- Powerful people know points n.1 and n.2
(how do you think they became powerful in the first place?)
Fight or Flight
When people go assertive on me, my brain switches into I show you who's boss mode:
- I stop listening and beget counterattacks
- My body language switches into "foot in the door" mode
- I try to seize the moment to interrupt so to make my point
- My heart races, and my blood pressure spikes
But my sparring partner is likely doing the same!
Both of us are in fighting mode.
We see red and want to bite.
THIS IS WAR
and in war, the most powerful side wins
In this situation, contents cease to be relevant as none is really listening nor trying to understand the other's point of view.
– It happens to me every day –
Can we do something about it?
Looting a Burning House
Looting a Burning House is part of the Chinese's 36 Stratagems wisdom.
It unethically suggests attacking an enemy when they are facing internal troubles, for they will be weak and easier to overcome.
I'm not suggesting setting your boss' house on fire. That would be rather criminal. But I tell you: practice the art of Active Listening to achieve a similar result.
and listen attentively
Not only will you find out helpful information to stand your ground, but it will also tire her down and increase your chances to achieve knockout by exhaustion (of arguments).
Active Listening empowers you by:
- letting your counterpart vent out anything they need to say
- once they are done, they have nothing to do but listen
(this is the "looting a burning house" part)
- meanwhile, you collected intel around their motivations and feelings
- when you talk, you ensure attention to your points
This is the theory anyway.
Reality is often tougher than it appears in rear mirrors.
I'll start on Monday!
In my personal experience, Active Listening is like dieting:
- you know how it works
- you know you need it
- – but you start tomorrow –
It's just scary, right?
Years have passed since I started to practice Active Communication, I'm slowly getting better at it, but I haven't yet found a simple switch to turn on.
Writing my thoughts in my blog – writing this article – helps me reflect on my behavior, progress, and setbacks.
You can try to do the same, but please, start today!