“You just love to argue!” a friend of mine said to me.
To that point in my life, I had been that person that avoided arguments. I often walked away from them. When that wouldn’t work, I was prone to level the “You just love to argue!” charge against them.
I don’t think even this friend of mine would accuse me of being a hyena, in the world of arguers, but I was once a limping antelope caught up in a pack of hyenas. It got so bad, at times, that I would examine, and reexamine everything I planned on saying. I wanted to have one peaceful day at work. When that wouldn’t work, I just stopped talking. I didn’t understand how everything I said could be so wrong, so controversial, debatable, and the subject of argument, and I gave up trying to figure it all out.
It was obvious to this pack of hyenas that I didn’t know how to argue, because I wasn’t used to everyone challenging every idea I had, but the fact that they were so confrontational about damning my ideas told me more about arguing than any debate class could.
Receiving the charge that I was one of them, a person that loved to argue, after a number of years, also taught me something. I found the charge shocking, but I also found it a little pleasing.
As that accusation popped up more and more in my life, and it caused me to reflect on the nature of the charge, I began to wonder if I used the same process that those that picked me out used when they wanted to argue with someone. To those people, I thought they enjoyed picking on someone that lacked the degree of intellect they had. Or, at least, someone that hadn’t spent a sufficient amount of time arguing, to know how to argue. Was I, now, guilty of the same, I wondered when this charge was being directed at me?
The simple truth is that most of us spend most of our lives arguing. Whether that argument consists of conservatism vs. liberalism; Darwinism vs. Creationism; The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones; Coke vs. Pepsi; Happy Days vs. Saved by the Bell; or whether or not Suzy knows how to do her hair right. Most of us are arguing about something every day of our lives.
Some might consider these subjects, subjects of debate, and that the difference between a healthy debate and an out and out argument is seismic. Even if some of these healthy debates are characterized in this manner, by the hyena that won’t leave you alone, you’ll find yourself levelling the “You just love to argue!” charge to end all future debates, healthy debates, and out and out arguments, and you will grow frustrated when none of it works.
The question you will have is why do they keep coming back to you with new information, new points to ponder, and a never-ending cycle that appears to be redundant to all observers? Why you? Why don’t they bother Suzy Q over there? She appears to enjoy arguing as much as they do? Yet, they keep coming back to you.
After receiving the charge that I’ve made against many, for so many years, I found the answer. I found the answer to why they sought me out, in my search for why I sought some of them out: I like to win.
Those that hate arguing, hate losing. They fear that if they enter into an argument with you, over subject ‘A’, you’ll prove that you know what you’re talking about, as you’ve proven in the past. And when the argument reaches its crescendo, they fear that that they may be revealed as a person that doesn’t know what they’re talking about. The best way to avoid such embarrassing and stressful revelations, they think, is to just avoid arguing altogether.
Those that love to argue, on the other hand, appear to think that they learn things about all the players around them, and they may feel they learn things about themselves by arguing. And it may all be a complex pursuit of intellect and psychology, but it might also be something very simple: it may be all about winning and losing.
Most arguments seem so simple that they’re not worth having, but some people love to win arguments so much that they seek out the one person in the room that feeds their bear better than anyone else. Is this you? Do you have a person, that no matter how many times you say you don’t want to argue about it, won’t leave you alone about an about an annoying amount of everything? It may be that you’re better at feeding their bear than anyone else. Either you walk away, or you let it be known that you just don’t like arguing. Whatever the case is, they must find your reactions nourishing to their ego, or they wouldn’t keep coming back.
“Why do you insist on arguing about everything?!” is something you might say, in the face of their constant badgering. Or, “Does everything an argument to you?” You may even decide that you just don’t enjoy being around them, that they make you uncomfortable, and that you don’t enjoy their company. You may know that they enjoy watching you scream and squirm on a certain level, but you’ve provided yourself some comfort in stating that there must be something wrong with them if they enjoy doing that. If you’re one of these people, and you’re getting lost in the forest of their argumentative minds, you may want to start looking for the signs that say: “Don’t feed the bears!”
“I know I shouldn’t walk away,” you may say, “But it can just get so exhausting arguing with them.” The problem with this line of thought, as anyone that knows anything about bears will tell you, is that when you feed a bear they keep coming back. It’s the nature of the beast to keep coming back to the spot where their ego was nourished with the least amount of effort involved. They will no longer go out into the wild, where they belong, to keep their instincts shiny and honed, and they will become fat, and lazy, subsisting on your ineffectual, but nourishing responses.
There are some bear feeders, and we all know one, that believe that an argumentative bully can be put down with one clever turn of a phrase, or a well-timed, well-placed shot on the chin. If you’re one of those people, you may want to consider the idea that you’re watching way too much TV. In the fantasy world of television, where the screenwriter of that show has their character deliver the one shot, clever turn of a phrase they wished they said to their bully, the bully is put in his place. In the fantasy world of television, the bully comes to respect the victim for their moxie, and the two of them may skip off together, hand in hand, in an eventual pursuit of the conflict that led this complex bully to be so insecure that he felt compelled to pick on his victim. If you’re one of these people, you may want to consider either turning the TV off, or switching the channel. The Lifetime Network is doing you more harm than good at this point.
In the world of reality, your single shot results in little more than the smell of gun powder in the air. The reason that you fired that shot was not to hurt them, but to try and scare them off a little. As anyone that knows anything about bears can tell you, the smell of gun powder triggers an instinctual mechanism in the bear that will cause them to keep coming at you until you are forced to recognize that it’s going to take a strategic concentration of blows to be delivered over time to put them down. It’s going to take a thorough understanding of the bear, and an ability to defeat them, with repetition and patience, until that moment of truth arrives when they bring up an argument and try to avoid looking over at you while doing it. Either that, or they will avoid broaching that topic that they know is in your wheelhouse.
You will know that you’ve stuck a dagger in their purported “lifelong love of the arguing” when they give visual cues that they’re relieved that for the first time in a long time, you have said nothing to contradict them. These moments, when you become the bear, don’t come around often, and you should feel free to rub it out on the nearest tree as a reward for your constant, and confident, and strategic defeats, of every argument they left by the trash can for your nourishment.
Some unfortunate, and lifelong, victims believe that I am 100% incorrect in my assessment that constant, confident, and calm refutation has any merit, and they opt for a more high-pressured, high-volume attack that they believe will whip the head of the argumentative bully around to a realization that all victim’s desire: the ‘You don’t wanna go messing around with me no more’ realization. This attack often involves a lot of swear words, a red-face, and some ultimate ultimatum. This tactic has never been proven to be the effective, in my experience, and I have witnessed it from all sides of the paradigm.
There have been times when I’ve been on the casual observer side, and I’ve heard these argumentative bullies whisper: “Watch this!” before launching on you people. I’ve heard them state with pride that they can get a rise out of you, when you’re not around. They love this, is what I’m saying. They take great pride, almost to the point of arousal, in the fact that they are one of the few people that can get a lot out of you.
“Why do you give them that?” I’ve wondered aloud on more than a few occasions. The reactions I’ve received, as a neutral party, are just as red-faced, and laced with profanity, and high volume. It has led me to believe that some of you are victims as a matter of happenstance, and some of you are a species unto yourselves.
Some arguments are germane and vital to your existence, and the best argument I’ve heard for never walking away from them is that you have to teach people how to treat you. Those that love to argue will put you through the ringer, just to see what you’re made of. These people disgust those that try to avoid arguments at all costs, because they don’t enjoy being tested. They want to live in a world where everyone treats everyone else in the manner they want to be treated. They want to live in a land of peace of harmony. Too bad, say those that love to argue. This is the real world, and we’re going to force you through this tiny, revelatory hole just to see what you come out looking like on the other side. These arguments are often of a more personal nature, and they cannot be avoided. You have to teach others how to treat you.
Other arguments must be walked away from for the sake of preserving one’s sanity, and I’ve been in those too. These arguments come from an annoying species of bear called the plane switchers. If they trip upon a subject that you are well-versed in, they will switch the playing field on you, until you end up arguing about the origin of the Wiccan religion. How did they do that, you may wonder, when you thought you were having a philosophical discussion about the homeopathic uses of emu urine? If you begin to become a student of the argument, and you begin seeing all the signs around you in the dark and sparse forests of the plane switchers, you’ll find that ‘how’ that happened is far less relevant to why it did, and that question can be answered with one word: victory.
It will take a very steady hand, in these dark forests of the plane switchers, but if you manage to switch the playing field back to the subject at hand, you can find your way out with one victory of one argument, on one day, in the everlasting arguments with these exhausting people, and all exhausting arguers, until you run across the person that mistakes you for being a person that loves to argue.
I remember that day, oh so long ago, when that first person accused me of being an argumentative person. I almost laughed in her face. When she did that, they had no idea how many arguments I had lost. They had also had no idea that I had reached a point where I no longer allowed an argument to go unchallenged. They had no idea that they had presented me with an argument, and that I was countering their argument. They had no idea that they just wanted me to lie down, and roll over, and accept their argument in the manner they wanted it accepted. If they knew the painful and emotional road I traveled on to get to the point where I received their wonderful compliment, they would have never said it. They just knew the finished product that stood before them arguing against their argument. They didn’t know how many years I spent in the loser’s bin, unable to compete, not knowing the right thing to say, and trying every possible method I could think up just to shut just one of them up. They just knew the finished product. They didn’t know about all the Dr. Frankenstein’s that gave the beast life.
Very few arguers know the argumentative beast inside them. They don’t know the maturation process that their beast went through, or the weaponry their beast purchased with intangible experience, but they do know that they like to argue with you over any other individual in the room, because they love to see someone else do the squirmy, screamy dance that they used to do when arguers chose them over everyone else in the room. They may not know any of these complex intellectual and psychological algorithm of their beast, but they do know that they like to win, and that you –the person that doesn’t like to argue– will always give them that.