How to Cope with the Argumentative Person
by Kevin Hogan
The argumentative communicator always needs to be right.
They want to defeat their opponent as if the dining room, the bedroom (a really stupid place to create negative anchors) or the boardroom is like a courtroom where only one person can "win."
Whether at home, on the road, or in business, it's critical to remember that it's very easy for no one to win.
This doesn't mean to stop disagreeing or intellectually pursuing what is good and right. It is very important to make sure those we have discussions with do not feel attacked.
There is an additional problem. You and I both know that we often take possession of our ideas as if they were our identity. If people's ideas and verbalized thoughts are always experienced at the level of one's identity, then all debate will become perceived as fighting or arguing. Therefore, when this pattern of communication erupts, it's important to separate the idea from the person. This doesn't stop discussion and debates from becoming arguments and fights but it does add clarity to the conversation.
The Magical Question...
If you are discussing something with someone and they perceive you as argumentative, I suggest you ask the person, "How can I present counter examples and other points of view to you so that you are not offended and your feelings are not hurt?" I thought of this wonderful question many times when it was simply too late to ask.
If you experience numerous people saying things like, "you just love to argue don't you?" or "why do you always argue with me" or "I don't want to fight with you," then regardless of whether you are fighting with people or not, you need to reconsider your approach to communication so you are perceived as less abrasive.
Many times people who are intellectuals (whether they are "intellectual snobs" or not!) are considered argumentative simply because they have such a broad or deep knowledge about something that they are constantly the individual with superior knowledge about a subject.
This can lead others to feeling inferior. In these situations it can be useful for the person pereceived as superior and therefore the one who often puts others "on edge" or "on the defensive" to reduce the number of verbalizations in a communication and "tighten up their communication." Make long speeches shorter. Ask more questions and have fewer total words spoken in dialogue.
KEYPOINT: Remember: Where one person seems to know everything, the other person is not necessary...or at least that's how they feel.
Most brilliant people got that way because they were incredibly inquisitive. This too can become a problem. Asking questions of others is a great way to learn about how others feel, think and believe but believe it or not...there are lines that can be crossed here as well!
I've found myself asking questions when I used to argue like it was a hobby...questions that were sharp and cutting and critical by implication.
I stopped that habit but even ceasing intentional criticism or contempt is not always enough for how others FEEL about you. What they PERCEIVE you are TRYING TO SAY with your questions.
There are other problems that come from great inquisitors....notice how that word (it may not be a word by the way) is like the word inquisition? Yeah... me too. Lots of people FEEL like your questions are not questions but interrogation whether you intend that or not. Sometimes you're just trying to figure out the person or their thinking process and all of a sudden you are called a "cop" or "police officer" or something similar.
With that in mind, let's figure out just HOW people process you and what you're saying...
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