Can’t We All Just Get Along?

2016 February 12
by Dr. Steve Sarche

The Broncos are Super Bowl Champions again and you can’t argue that it was one of the best defensive performances in Super Bowl history that got them there. In addition, Peyton Manning is a champion for the second time in his career and you can’t argue that, despite clearly on the athletic decline, he has had a legendary career, statistically, and maybe even better, as an overall good teammate and community presence.

This all has me thinking about arguments.   Why do we argue? Do arguments ever wind up settled and leaving us in a happy and warm-fuzzy place?   I guess sometimes arguments are engaging like debating who the greatest quarterback of all time is. To me, however, most arguments represent failures in power and in communication.   The power failure comes in the fact that each participant wants the power, wants to force their point across, but neither foe actually gets the power. The communication failure comes from the fact that the only thing that happens is that people lose their voice by yelling. Despite the rising volume, there is less, not more listening.

So this is a good time to talk about how to argue better.   Some would say there are ways to win arguments and that is true. For general consistency in successful communication, however, it is better to conceptualize an argument as an opportunity to end bad communication than an opportunity to “win”.

To do this, it is first important to figure out why there is an argument. Take for instance, teenagers.   They love to argue in general and often just for the sake of arguing. For example, they will say, just because you love Peyton Manning, that, “Peyton Manning sucks.” Clearly this is an easy way to start an argument.

When you sense you are in an argument, especially with a teenager, you should work on how to end the argument, not win it. One way is to soften the defense. A good example would be to ask this, “Why do you think Peyton Manning sucks?”   Then, no matter what the answer, you listen. You do not talk about the fact that he has the record for most career touchdown passes or how much money his Peyback Foundation has given to disadvantaged youth. You show that you want to hear what is being said.

After listening, there may be a turn-over and you may have a chance to say your piece. The tendency is to start with talking about your feelings first, but in an argument, this plan almost always gets blitzed. Before stating your feelings, start with facts.   For example, he says, “The defense sucks! The Broncos got lucky!” Instead of looking at him like an idiot and mocking the goofiness of the statement, you can say, “The Broncos tied a record for most sacks ever in a Super Bowl. Also, no team ever played a number one scoring offense in the Super Bowl and had a better combination of least points, most sacks and turnovers.” You can then add something like, “I feel like you are not taking that into consideration.”

Granted, this won’t work to stop an angry person, especially a teen, from being angry, but it probably stops or slows the argument.

Knowing that no matter what you say in an argument, the person will disagree, you work on not letting emotions get into this.   Yelling in anger, “How can you not love Peyton Manning’s single season passing yard record?” will not get you results. It is tempting to yell even louder in an attempt to persuade your antagonist. That won’t work. So throw the emotions out of bounds and make a new game plan.

A trick play in an argument may be to give in a bit. You may say, to your lawyer teenager, “True, the Broncos did give up 21 first downs.   That is a lot. I will give you that.” In other words, acknowledge you are listening and that the other person does have an interesting point. Conceding a point can play a difficult but effective part in ending an argument.

Even more difficult, you may take a bit of the blame for the argument. You say something like, “Man, I really missed the fact that you were making a good point.” This may feel like you concede a loss but remember, don’t approach an argument like a battle to win, but to end peacefully.

Finally, when all else fails, give up. If you are truly in the midst of an argument filled with loud voices, irrational interaction, no communication, concede victory. Live to play another day.   Peyton Manning took the bench for six weeks this season to get physically healthy; probably one of his best career decisions ever.

In an ideal world, arguments would exist but end with everybody thinking they won equally and that they got what they wanted.   The reality is that arguments will not end that way, especially as there will always be teenagers who love to argue.  Arguments lead to anger, anger leads to unhappiness, hurt, and destroys the chance for good solutions.

There were, according to the Mayor’s office, almost one million people in attendance at the Bronco’s Super Bowl parade. Colorado’s population is about 5.4 million.   This means that almost 1 in 5 people that live here were there.   Amazingly, at this massively attended event, one report noted there was only one arrest. I do not know of any kind of gathering that big that resulted in that peaceful of a showing.

My friend, who was there with his two young daughters, was approached by a poorly groomed man, in tattered clothes, carrying a bag of cans.   The man insisted on giving the two girls a gold Sacagawea coin each.

For at least a short time, in that sea of Orange, we all seemed to be together, there were seemingly no major arguments.   There was a sense of community, strength; a feeling of acceptance and belonging. We all seemed to have our feelings acknowledged and understood. And everybody looked happy or at least content. To me this was a great example of how you can feel by not arguing.  For a moment, even if you did not like the color Orange, you were united in Orange.

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