The word “argue” has a bad reputation. We typically hear that arguing gets us nowhere, but “discussion” and “debate” are glorious. Well, yeah they are but the truth is that the word “argue” has two meanings:
“to give reasons or cite evidence in support of an idea, action, or theory, typically with the aim of persuading others to share one’s view”
“to exchange or express diverging or opposite views, typically in a heated or angry way.”
(New Oxford American Dictionary)
The latter is what we typically think of. Angry, emotion-filled arguments that result in fighting. I look at it differently. I see arguments beginning in the first definition and sometimes falling in the second.
All of that to say: I hate that I love to argue. I love to be challenged, and I love even more to be corrected.
When someone confronts me with their opinion that is opposed to mine, I honestly get extremely excited. Every outcome of an argument is a win for me, and here’s why.
1. If I lose the argument, I learn something. I’m forced to go back to the books and bolster my arguments, while re-analyzing why I believe something is true in the first place. My opinion evolves and my integrity is strengthened. The next time I confront someone about the subject, I will have a better understanding of both sides of the issue, allowing me to communicate more effectively, with the chances of a pleasant discussion being far higher.
2. If I win an argument, I am reaping the reward for doing my due diligence in educating myself. I am also seeing the results of my critical thinking and seeing that I can, in fact, gather strong (and correct) points very quickly without resorting to logical fallacies, such as the dreaded ad hominem and the sneaky straw man. I’ve also managed to help someone overcome their pride and see my perspective, which is pretty rare for most people to do.
3. If I tie with the person, I receive the benefits of both #1 and #2. I know for sure that I’m on the right track, I just need to put some more work into forming my ultimate opinion or observation. That said, there are two kinds of ties: good ties and bad ties.
A good tie is a mutual agreement that both sides have failed to offer a “clobber argument” or failed to fully persuade the other. This is the most common outcome of an argument, which of course is indicative of the fact that we just aren’t perfect.
Bad ties are ties that are a result of neither side willing to give up, usually because one person is repeating the same argument and making no progress or one person has resorted to emotion and fallacies. These are the worst arguments and happen almost exclusively online, as they are fed by anonymity because hey, why show respect to someone you can’t see?
I consider a bad tie beneficial, however, because it grounds me. It reminds me that there are people out there that aren’t interested in truth-seeking. They just want to be heard. The only benefit is that I am better prepared in the future to point out needless debates such as these ahead of time, thus saving me a headache.
So what’s the takeaway here? There’s nothing wrong with arguing. It really does make you more intelligent, but only if you are intellectually honest. If someone bests you, learn from it. Don’t be obstinate. At the same time, it’s okay to not be persuaded by a better argument. Sometimes your convictions are correct, you just need to research your position more.
Anyone want to argue with me about this?
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