Know when to hold ‘em…Know when to walk away…Know when to run…
I had so much fun singing this song when I was a kid, but I don’t know that I understood how fully it could apply to so many things.
One of the many messages my dad tried to impress upon me as a kid was “picking your battles.”
One of my earliest memory of this lesson came in the sixth grade when my teacher called me a “rabble rouser” and kicked me out of class for inciting a riot with a short story I wrote for a contest.
Somehow my teacher lost my story and didn’t find it until after the entry deadline had passed. I accused her of having done it on purpose. She denied it and told me the story wasn’t any good anyway.
Someone else suggested that she read the story. Soon kids were demanding it.
The story was about a dog owner who favored one dog over the others for no particular reason. In the end he was savagely attacked and ripped to shreds by the other dogs. I was sure my teacher had correctly recognized herself as the pet owner in this story.
I remember my principal sending someone to the teacher to retrieve the story and then I sat there all huffed up and teary -eyed while she read it. She sent me home with the story and a note to give to my parents. Later my dad opened it, read the note and laughed hysterically. (Never did find out what the note said) Then he read the story.
Then we had a talk.
“Let’s talk about what you did wrong. And let’s talk about what you did right.”
This was my favorite opener from Dad. It indicated I was in trouble, but probably not going to get a whoopin’.
Right included standing up for myself and creating an awareness of a situation that needed to be addressed.
Wrong included bad timing, which I apparently displayed by confronting her during class with a room full of students and starting and egging on an unnecessary fight.
“You should have known you made your point when she ‘lost’ your story. She knew what you were saying. She just didn’t want anyone else to know what you were saying.”
And then he said something that I can only describe as a horribly profane version of the ol’ “don’t argue with fools” line. (You’ve heard this: because people from a distance can’t tell which one is the fool)
I’m reminded of this conversation after I ran right into someone I think I had managed to avoid for some time now. This Supreme Debater will walk into any group, drop a specific topic into any conversation and the minute someone replies, it’s off to the races.
After the first couple times I got really good at seeing the trap being set and there were times when I noticed no one took the bait and this person moved on to start again elsewhere. After months underground (not sure which of us went underground but our paths diverged), they popped up right next to me.
I considered that they might not do it, but they did. So I scooted on over and then eased away. I have better things to do with my time than to try and reason with the unreasonable.
People like to argue for any number of reasons. But as usual, I got a little something for them.
Type One: Some people argue simply to be heard, or to engage.
Any conversation is good conversation because it gives them attention, and they’ll take your attention however they can get it.
You know this person: they will yell at you through a door long after you’ve shut it. They have to have the last word even if all they say is “I know” but more likely they will say something snarky in an attempt to provoke you back into the argument.
Answer: Don’t do it.
You’ll be there all day or until they get tired, whichever comes second.
They’re insecure, feel week and/or unloved and any conversation is good conversation. They’re like the chick on the street with the booty hanging out the bottom of her shorts and boobs popping out of her top.
She doesn’t care if that guy thought she was a hooker, she just felt special being offered a dollar.
It’s unfortunate that these people never got enough attention from their family of origin. But what can I do? I’m not your mother, I don’t love you either and I don’t care how you feel about it. Seek therapy.
Type Two: Then you have those folks that argue to be right, or to dominate, not to be confused with the person who argues to be defensive or deflect.
The Right/Dominator will hear your point, or likely a portion of your point, that touches a nerve and they become bound and determined to make you say or acknowledge their view on that point. These people are usually though not always- narcissists. And your difference of opinion sounds like a criticism to them.
If they say green, and you say, “blue is nice, too,” you can expect a huge argument with them demanding to know why you hate green, and consequently hate them. In fact, they didn’t even have to say green, they could
And all you said was “blue.” You don’t hate green, heck, you never even met green, but you’re sure it’s a wonderful color. Still you’ve implied, suggested, and insinuated in your mention of blue that green is inferior.
Again, you will be here all day, if only to figure out what in tarnation the other person is screaming about.
Answer: The good news is these people can be fairly easily disarmed. Simply agree and compliment them. Jump in midsentence and hit them with, “Wow! I never thought about that, you make a good point there!” then look lost in deep and bemused thought.
They’ll prattle on a little about green’s virtues but you just smile and nod, and work your way to the nearest exit. They may know what you’re trying to do, but they’ll accept it because you’ve fed their need to be right. This technique has yet to fail me with this type.
Type Three: The defensive/deflectors are similar except they can and will get dragged off into some other topic. It doesn’t have to be a related topic, and sometimes I suspect this shift is intentional.
A good example of this is when a chick asks her dude “Why is SheSheGirl calling you?” and he replies with, “You went through my phone? What were you doing looking in my phone?”
He’s right, and this is why I don’t snoop because you can’t even get clarity on what you might find, but the point is now he doesn’t have to answer her question about SheSheGirl.
No matter how much his chick goes back to the original question and wants to discuss her (maybe valid) feelings, he can always counter with her not respecting his privacy and being too suspicious and jealous.
Answer: Don't take the bait.
Now guys, if you’re arguing with a chick and she starts to cry, you have two choices:
Run, it’s a trick and a test you can’t pass.
Laugh, but be prepared to duck.
If you’re being a good listener, you’ll know if these are legitimate tears or manipulation. Odds are it’s manipulation. And if you call her on it, she might react. Be prepared.
Ladies, if you’re arguing with a guy and he starts to cry, you have the same two choices for the same reason. Plus, if a guy tries to use the ol’ crying as manipulation trick he’s curbside material anyway.
Bottom line: Only a real argument- an exchange of different ideas- can be resolved. Everything else should be tossed out.
And, as if to offer divine confirmation, I got two Joel Osteen emails about staying above strife and knowing when to turnaway right around the same time the Supreme Debater showed up
I got the message, all right.
At the end of that conversation (and so many others) my dad would remind me that it’s important to have a voice, but it’s critical to know how to use it. He’d remind me that actions may speak louder than words, but silence is louder than everything.
And sometimes the most powerful thing you can decide is to say nothing and walk away.
I went back to school and sat very focused and working diligently. My teacher pulled me aside at the end of the day and swore that she really had lost the story and didn’t find it until after the deadline.
I remember tipping my head and giving a quick half shrug like I’d seen my mother do whenever someone told her something she didn’t believe. Then I looked everywhere but at my teacher’s face before kind of zig-zagging off to my locker to go home.
Could be a coincidence, but I swear she was a whole lot nicer to me after that.
Kenny Rogers – The Gambler
Ice Cube – Late Night Hour
Christina Aguilera – Ain’t No Other Man