How To Lose an Argument and Win Back Your Connection
Telling you to lose an argument, on purpose, feels violating. Our desire for justice, and our need to be right, might not culminate in a prizefight, but we still feel we need to win. And our fear of being hurt, or our need to protect loved ones, don’t just express themselves when we feel cornered by a stranger in a dark alley. Maybe the person we’re in conflict with is not stealing our property on the outside–and maybe they don’t outright mock us about it, either.
But on a daily basis, we’re confronted with shades of the same kind of conflicts. Fights which stimulate our fears and make us want to do and say anything to protect our emotional possessions.
You’ve been down this road before: it doesn’t end well for anybody.
Sure, you can win the argument and feel justified. But the two of you aren’t any closer. If you stop convincing yourself for even just a minute, you’ll see how dissatisfying “winning” really is.
Sure. It’s stood the test of time, but it often gets buried in our anger. You can lose the argument on purpose, and protect your connection. You can’t be a smug loser, obviously. There’s no room for martyrs here, if you want to grow in this relationship. Instead, losing the conflict on purpose, through sacrifice, can bring you closer. Here’s how:
Abandon Your Need to be Understood
This is the same as telling you, in the middle of a shipwreck, to take off your life-jacket. But it’s the first step to losing for connection.
You have to make peace, in your own mind, with the possibility that the person you’re in conflict with will never see your point of view. This shouldn’t motivate you to be more convincing. Instead, turn off the engine of defensiveness. Throw away your legal defence, along with your briefcase. Stop trying to be so convincing.
And for the love of God, stop making demands.
If you need your needs to be acknowledged before you try to see the other person’s side, you’re going to be arguing for a long time. Exhaustion, instead of peace, will finally end up calling the fight a draw.
But if you genuinely try to put yourself in the other person’s perspective, and stay there for a while, you’ll find empathy will start gushing out of your heart like a spring in the desert.
Assume the Other Person is 100% Right
Agh, can you feel it? Those words above are like sandpaper for the brain. Of course they’re not right! They’re wrong, and also stupid. You can’t possibly expect me to believe that!
But what if you received your adversary as your mentor?
Okay, let’s go the other way for a second. Let’s say the person you’re disagreeing with is 100% wrong. Let’s say they humbly crawl to your feet and beg for your forgiveness. Ask yourself: what have you learned from this? How have you grown? Did you build the other person up, or did you just build your own walls a little bit higher?
If, on the other hand, you start from the assumption this person is helping you, then you can begin to see how this conflict is developing you. You can lean into the growth while validating your opponent!
Here’s the key: it has to be sincere. You’re not flirting with the idea of being wrong–you’re actively seeking it.
Ask yourself–what is the other person seeing in me that I am not seeing?
Be Relentless in Seeking Forgiveness
You need to be forgiven, even when you are not wrong.
Let that sink in for a second, because it will help you more than anything else.
We have a retributive understanding of forgiveness, and it’s been destroying everything we love in this world. The only percentage higher than our divorce rates are the number of divorcees who believe there truly was “no fault” involved. In our politics and our protests, division is a way of life. But good luck finding someone who doesn’t believe in forgiveness.
We think forgiveness is needed, and given, where fault is found. As a consequence of this, we don’t begin with requesting it. Instead, we scrap with one another until one of us has the upper hand. Asking for forgiveness is no different than crying “uncle” because your arm is twisted behind your back. Then we wonder why there isn’t any power in our acquittal.
Forgiveness is not a mechanism of justice. Forgiveness is the language of reconciliation.
Even when you aren’t wrong, you can ask for forgiveness. Why? Because whether it’s true or not, you represent what the other person is struggling with. Have they misunderstood you? Have they misjudged you? Probably. You only have two options, and you can’t do both so pick carefully:
Do you want to prove you weren’t wrong, or do you want to embody the wrong they see?
We’re all struggling with our own illusions. We’re corrupted in the way we see. You can’t battle a mirage, so inevitably we project the brokenness we see onto other people. It’s called scapegoating, and it’s how we survive.
What if you volunteered to be the problem? What if that was the first step to making a solution?
This is how love moves from being a transaction to an incarnation. Don’t be fake about it. Don’t use it to dodge someone’s anger. Be present, and put your feet flat on the floor. Without irony, ask. “Will you forgive me?”
“If the way of reconciliation is found in mercy like this, then forgiveness must first be asked for before it can be given. Don’t try to dismiss someone else’s grievances before you’ve owned your own!”
After You Throw the Fight
Remember: once you lose, you can both win. There are only two options when you give up the conflict for the sake of connection. The obvious possibility is the other person might walk away in their victory. Console yourself with the reminder of how you’ve grown from this.
On the other hand, the other person might extend you forgiveness and seek to understand your side of things. And now you have the context for a real dialogue.