"There are two sides to every argument, until you take one,"
said Milton Berle. Whether you know it or not, smart people have
dumb arguments about unimportant things. Rather than continuing to
allow such arguments to stress us out and poke holes in our
relationship, we can become "conflict-wise," by learning to
recognize and sidestep them.
For instance, a while ago my husband and I were driving to a 99¢
store to buy some party supplies. I mentioned, "You know, a lot of
these so-called 99¢ stores charge more than 99¢ for many of the
items they sell."
"Not possible," he said. "All 99¢ stores sell everything at that
price. That's why they're called 99¢ stores."
"That's not true. You don't know because you haven't been to one.
The 99¢ thing is just a way to get more people into the store," I
"Why would they call it a 99¢ store if it's not one?" he shot
back, still trying to convince me.
"Wait a minute," I blurted out. "This is a dumb argument about a
fact. Why don't we just hold on for 10 minutes, get to the store,
and we'll have our answer?" He agreed, so we shut our mouths and
found the answer in the store. (I was right!).
We were having a dumb factual argument, exactly the kind of
worthless, energy-draining fight I discuss with my clients. The
topic could be anything from the name of a restaurant to a random
statistic, but the wise response to this type of conflict is to
pause and say, "We're having a dumb argument, let's stop fighting
and check the fact on the internet, or call a friend."
Now that sounds like common sense, right? But if it's so easy to
be sensible in the moment, then I suggest you consider whether
you've been involved in another type of dumb argument: the
post-argument argument. This happens when you've gotten what you
want but then you have just one more thing to say … and so the
fight starts all over again.
How come we can't just quit while we're ahead? From my perspective
as a mediator, the post-argument argument happens because the one
word "okay" isn't good enough for most people. Why? Because, we are
driven to win an even greater victory, something more than our
mate's agreement, we want that person to admit that we were 100
percent right from the start. When we become aware that we are
heading down that destructive path, it's time to close our mouths
and leave well enough alone. Anything else is downright, well,
If the above-described arguments (the factual and post-argument
ones) sound familiar to you, this third one might too - the dumb
premature argument. An example of this might be fighting over
whether to buy a ranch or colonial style house, when you move out
of your apartment, in three years, when your child hits
If an argument revolves around something that can't be acted upon
for a long time, it's premature because facts, preferences and
circumstances will change over time. As a result, your opinion will
most likely be altered by the time the decision becomes imminent.
If you're arguing about something that doesn't need an immediate
decision, short-circuit the fight by saying, "Why don't we wait to
have this discussion until we actually need to?"
Why do we lose our common sense from time to time? Because we are
human, and emotion will overtake our logic, if we let it.
Hereafter, to avoid dumb arguments, take charge, engage your brain,
identify the type of dumb argument you're having, and button your
lip. Most likely, you will have a good laugh instead of a bad
Relationship advice from best-selling author Laurie Puhn
See more of Laurie's stories here.
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