Friday, September 29, 2006

Want to win an argument?

I have always wondered why people argue. Conventional wisdom (mine that is :-)) says that an argument is for the purpose of informing the other person of your point of view and understanding why the other person disagrees with you. It stops becoming an argument when the idea of the argument is to convince the person that you are right. Convincing a person, I believe, should only be the product of making your point rather than the goal. There are several strategies we use to win over an argument. Some I use and other I have run into over time. Here are some of them listed in no particular order.

1. Start the argument with a blanket judgment on the other person’s opinion

This usually starts with something like "That is just stupid" or "I can’t believe you said that". The argument begins with the assumption that my opinion is not worth any merit and the only reason the argument is even happening is because I need to be convinced of what is right. There is no pretense of even understanding what I am trying to say. Usually in this case the person on the offense is not even listening to what the poor ignorant me has to say in my defense. At the end... the claim of victory is made announcing that they didn’t hear anything remotely sensible in the argument.

2. Repeat the same point over and over

Some people start with a point in an argument and simply repeat the same point over and over again. It doesn’t matter that the point has been countered. The person doesn’t even acknowledge the counter point and simply says "But like I said......” I am left wondering if my counter point is even relevant at all. After a while I think my point is not getting across and give up. The person claims moral victory as says that his point was never countered at any point.

3. You are good but what you say here is stupid.

This is the most devious one yet. In the middle of the argument the person says "You are a good person but misguided in this case". This gives me the false sense that he thinks that I am smart but this is a point that I am wrong. I then begin to think that since I am smart I should be sensible and agree with the opposing point of view hence demonstrating that I am accepting of new ideas. The person slowly eases into victory and announces that I am converted.

4. Display emotional stress

This is a tough one. Once the argument gets heated the other person begins to show emotional stress. I am left wondering if I should be creating such emotional turmoil so something so trivial and back out of it. And victory has been wrestled away.

5. Going on a tangent

This is usually noise. When a person begins losing the point that they are trying to make, there is tangent points that are brought into the argument. This usually broadens the discussion and dilutes the point trying to be made. This is the old battle strategy of smoke screen and confusion and before I know it I am lost in the smoke and the person has walked away claiming success.

6. The trump card (Experience)

This one always gets me. Since I end up arguing with people older than me in most cases I get this all the time. When the argument hits stalemate one of the most popular one is "You will not understand it now. But as you grow older you will appreciate what I have to say". This one kills the argument and I am left feeling as if I have been a bad boy questioning the authority of a more experienced person.

Though I have tried to pretend to be the victim in all the above cases I am very much guilty as charged for being the aggressor in most cases too, though I think I am yet to pull the trump card. I think I will wait a few more years before I start pulling that out on poor impressionable young kids who dare to have a point against me in an argument.

Bring it on!!!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Looking away from the screen

I was waiting at the optician’s office wondering what she would have to say. I had been experiencing some sort of a headache every evening on the days I was at work. It is not the sort that worries you but rather nags you. I wondered if it was something serious or if it was just that my vision had deteriorated to a point where I needed new glasses. She walked out and announced that my vision had improved leaving me completely stunned. She said that my vision had improved ever so slightly and that there was no need to changes my glasses. So I quipped her on the reason for the nagging headache and she simply brushed it away saying that it is because I work on the computer for long periods of time. She suggested that I don’t wear my glasses (short-sighted) while I work on the computer. She also suggested that I look away from the screen once in a while so that my eyes do not get strained. Strained eyes usually cause a nagging headache and she said that I need to look away and blink a few times. Maybe even focus on something else for a while. Then she said it…… “It happens as you grow older”.

As with eyes so goes with life. It occurred to me that as I have grown older I have developed certain rigidity to my thoughts and habits. There is a tendency to hold on to a point of view and not let go. A lot of times the arguments I have has no real relevance or significance to me, but just the fact that I am in the argument makes me want to win it. Most times it ends up giving me a headache after the fact and almost always I wish I had not gone down that path. I have noticed this trait in a lot of people that I have argued with. I wonder if this is a trait that develops with age. Why do people sometimes go into a mode of arguing to win rather than arguing to get a point across? Why do some people get consumed by a problem and are unwilling to walk away from it and revisit it when emotions have calmed? Why do I look at the screen harder when I cant fix a bug in my code?

I wish we could all look away from the screen. Maybe focus on the picture that is hanging on the wall. Take a deep breath and then look back again. After all, we are all aging and aging eyes need refocusing. Maybe we will see the screen that much more clearly.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The art of self confidence

What is self-confidence derived from? Every time you come across a person with a lot of it, you wonder what makes them so confident of their own selves. Sometimes I look at these people and find no reason that they should exude such confidence and yet they are there standing before me talking and doing things with reckless abandon.

Most times I conclude that it is success in their lives, success at school, success at work and an overall successful life to that point that leads to such unbridled confidence. But I sit back and wonder and very rarely agree with this conclusion. There are several people that I have interacted with, that have not really been that successful but yet they have no self doubt. I used to work for a person who was the picture of self belief. He truly believed in everything that he proposed. His vision and ideas were hardly ever in doubt and yet this man had come off a failed project and was currently in a very questionable project (In terms of it possibility of success). Yet with not a thought given to any of that he chugged along ever slightly modifying his vision based on things her learnt on the way but never questioning his past decisions. Wonderful isn’t it, to be able to go forward without looking back.

Is it something we are born with? I doubt it. It almost feels like an art. You hear a lot of people talk a lot of things about you and the things you do. I would think it is truly a gift to be able to take all this information and simply use it as a tool to rework oneself rather than get consumed by it. It takes a lot to hear criticism and not be doubtful of your choices and decisions. Yet a lot of people do it with out any effort at all.

They must surely be artists.