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This is one of a series
of brief articles on how to respond effectively
to annoying social behavior. An "effective response" occurs
when the responder (a) gets their
well enough, and (b) both people feel
This article assumes you're familiar with...
Arguing differs from problem-solving in that each person
tries to "win" - so there is a "loser." Do you know a child
or adult who often tries to hook you into a lose-lose
argument or debate ("Yes, but..."). If so, how do you
you argue with them? Do you feel heard (vs. agreed with) and
respected? What would you rather do than argue?
The subselves ruling people who argue chronically or
excessively may strive to...
replace boredom or painful
self-awareness with external excitement, and/or to...
intimacy and self-disclosure, and/or to...
reduce ceaseless shame and inferiority by
"winning" every argument and feeling
Each of these suggest the person is ruled by a
Few people are aware of false-self domination and wounds,
or know what to do about them. Implication -
instead of saying "Rosa loves to argue," or "Rosa always
has to have the last word (or be right),"
probably more accurate and compassionate to say "Rosa
is wounded and ruled by a false self, and she doesn't
Possible responses to someone who argues or debates
compulsively include first checking to make sure your
your Self. Then get clear on...
Then offer a
hearing check like this...
"So you want me
to understand that (whatever)."
A common effect of a statement (not a question) like
this is to "take the wind out of her/his sails" because
you've just ended the debate by not arguing. Beware - if
you (your false self) use this as a ploy to win,
you'll probably lose.
When you get agreement to your
("Yeah..." / a nod / "Right..."), then
your needs respectfully and
firmly, and expect "resistances." For example:
"(Name), I just
need you to hear my point of view. I don't need you
to agree with me (if that's true). Can you give me a
hearing check now?"
you need to argue and debate with me, I eventually
get weary and tune you out. I'd rather
problem-solve, or agree to disagree. Will you do
you aware of how often you argue or fight?" If I say
"black," you say "No, white." We never solve
anything, and I don't much feel like debating with
And a follow up to that is - calmly, not
debating (or arguing) again..." You can also
use a neutral hand gesture (like an upraised fist)
that you both know means the same thing.
Expect resistance (e.g. an argument) without
judgment, acknowledge it respectfully with a hearing
check, and calmly repeat your assertion as often as
needed. If a partner dismisses or minimizes your
response and need/s, see your response-options to
hearing check , aggression,
you finish this.
Notice your reaction to these options. Are you
motivated to try them? How do they compare with
your usual reaction to argumentative people? Recall our
of "an effective response to a problem
Here's another option
for responding to an argumentative person...
The "I'm Right!" Exercise
there kids or adults in your
life with whom you "argue?"
Do each of you get focused
on "winning," getting "your
way," and/or "being right"?
In most cases, such contests
are lose-lose, because both
disrespected, unheard, and
are win-win problem-solving,
or - in the case of *values*
conflicts - agreeing
respectfully to disagree.
Try this safe, powerful way
to illustrate the silliness
and futility of "I'm right!
No, I am!" battles:
Agree you have an
Stand and face your
partner from about 12"
away. Each of you make
an "L" shape with your
right arm so your
forearms are vertical
Clasp your right hands
gently, and hold
comfortable eye contact.
One of you start by
saying with some
right." As you
do, rotate both your
arms 90 degrees to
horizontal. Don't use
physical strength and
don't resist - this is
not a physical contest.
Do not smile.
With steady eye contact,
the second person says
rotates both your arms
180 degrees to
The first person says
more forcefully "NO!
rotates both arms 180 degrees to
Repeat this sequence
four or more times,
escalating the tone and
power of your voice and
the speed of
arm-rotation each time.
Keep steady eye contact,
and don't joke or grin.
See what you feel and
think, and discuss
this together as
you'll both wind up
exercise vividly illustrates
(vs. explains) the
pointlessness of arguing -
i.e. trying to persuade each
other "You're wrong and I'm
right!" A variation is to
say "I (did 'x'" and rotate)
and the other person says
"No, you didn't," and
rotates back) Try that for
6-8 times with good eye
contact, and see what you
feel. This exercise can be
specially helpful with
stubborn (insecure and/or
This is one of a series of brief articles suggesting
effective ways to respond to common irritating social
behaviors. This article
offers ways to respond to an argumentative or
combative person without getting into a lose-lose
power struggle. The options are
based on your...
putting your Self in
charge of your personality,
maintaining a mutual
being clear on your
feelings, needs, and personal rights, and...
fluency in the
communication skills of awareness, assertion, and
The article also
illustrates a useful exercise demonstrating the
pointlessness of arguing.
Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this
article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what
you need? Who's
these questions - your