Friday, May 18, 2012

How to Win an Argument (or a Soul)

Once upon a time (or four years ago, or four pregnancies ago), I taught a whole lot of argument and rhetoric. I enjoyed it for several reasons, one of which was that, every quarter, I had the opportunity to turn a bunch of student tickedoffedness (at having to take another English class) into something other.

I promised my students: no matter where life was taking them, they would be better off for learning to make a decent argument. And it's true, isn't it?: a person's opponents may include only his or her mother-in-law and insurance company, but--at certain points--everyone has to either argue, or accept a whole bunch of cockamamie craziness.

Unfortunately, though, we very often decide something's worth fighting for only to blow it. We find ourselves in a tizzy and forget: winning an argument hinges upon fairness and respect.

  • If we expect others to give us time but offer nothing of real value, in return, we lose.
  • If we presume to know everything about others and their situations, we lose.
  • If we--in any way--come across as thinking we're "better than," we lose.
  • If we reveal how narrow-minded we are, we lose.
  • If we go in with no understanding of the other side, we lose.
  • If we convey a negative attitude, we lose.
  • If we fail to establish common ground, we lose.
  • If we neglect to explain why we're arguing (why it matters), we lose.

I lose arguments more often than I'd like to admit, mostly because I forget: if I'm arguing well, it shouldn't look as though I'm arguing, at all. 

I go back in time and remember this particular street preacher, in Dallas: how he stood on the corner of Cedar Springs and Throckmorton and beat on his Bible, howling for LGBT souls. I was straight as an arrow, but I kept a clear berth. I didn't like the way he sold the Jesus I had tucked way down deep in my heart.

When I get my feathers real good and ruffled, I try to remind myself: I never saw anyone talk to the street preacher; far as I could tell, he lost his argument over and over. I know I don't want to argue like him, but What Would Jesus Do seems too hard to obtain, so I aim for Mister Rogers. Over and over, I fall short, but I'm working in that direction. I am.

Please view this video of Mister Rogers defending PBS to the United States Senate:


1 comment:

  1. This helps - gathering wise counsel. Thanks Brandee

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