Politics! Coronavirus! Detroit Lions! There are plenty of things to talk (or YELL) about with family at Thanksgiving this year. How will you respond when your cousin’s boyfriend starts trash-talking something you believe in? What will you do when your aunt gets the whole family riled up with her point of view? Whether you spend Thanksgiving this year with others in-person or virtually, let’s not make it uncomfortable by “debating” to win.
Bob (not his real name), a Dale Carnegie Course graduate, recently told me what he did when he felt his blood boiling over an Instagram post a friend made. It was an aggressive political post. Imagine all the unique hashtags, IN ALL CAPS, one might make when they’re mad. It included those.
Bob thought several times about how to respond to the post – how disappointed he was and how he couldn’t believe his friend would post something like that. He told me “Subconsciously I knew better and applied Principle #10 – The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it. I didn’t end up posting anything. I ended up talking it through with my wife and others and realized that his post wasn’t meant as an attack on me directly it was simply his opinion.” What a thoughtful way to avoid an argument!
If you’re saying “That won’t work when my Aunt Jess is yelling loud enough to make sure everyone at the dinner table across the street knows what she thinks.” you might be right. When the person is right in front of us, we typically don’t have the luxury of hours to think and talk it through with others before responding. What can we do? Well, instead of immediately flinging a spoonful of mashed potatoes at Aunt Jess, pause to take a breath. Those three seconds might relax us a bit. And, that might be just enough time to let us respond at our best, not our worst.
Dale Carnegie, in How to Win Friends and Influence People, says “a misunderstanding is never ended by an argument but by tact, diplomacy, conciliation, and a sympathetic desire to see the other person’s viewpoint.” Asking questions to find out why the other person thinks that way, or simply letting the topic of conversation end so you can move on to something less polarizing, might make for a more enjoyable evening.
Remember, if someone is yelling, listen. When two people are yelling, communication stops. It’s just two people successfully convincing themselves they are right without the other person even noticing. As Dale Carnegie notes “Which would you rather have, an academic, theatrical victory or a person’s good will? You can seldom have both.”
“I have come to the conclusion that there is only one way under high heaven to get the best of an argument – and that is to avoid it.” – Dale Carnegie