This is a guide to winning arguments and vanquishing all enemies in your path. Once completed, you may begin practicing this martial art.
After some practice, you will be nearly invincible.
The first step towards conquering all of your enemies is realizing that they don’t exist. Once you do that, they are defeated. They are gone. If your enemies are dead, they cannot hurt you.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing, and right-doing, there is a field. I will meet you there. — Rumi
This requires reframing. The word “argue” has become a loaded term, and thus has lost much of its semantic value. Words must carry shared meaning. The more shared meaning they carry, the more powerful they can become.
We often think of arguments as win-lose. Once something is framed as win-lose, it becomes zero-sum. Zero-sum games aren’t especially fun if you’re the loser. When you get emotionally invested in winning, you also get emotionally invested in defeating the other side. When the rules of arguing aren’t clearly defined (as they often aren’t), we can become incentivized to win at the expense of our opponent. We use combative language, like “defeat, opponent, crush, destroy, etc.” We also may use combative, violent, or coercive behaviors.
As any great martial artist knows, the best way to win a fight is not to have one. Masters have a quiet confidence about them and don’t feel the need to consistently prove themselves. Even if a master happens to get into a fight, it is a last resort, approached with reluctance. After defeating an opponent, the opponent is treated with grace and mercy. Masters know that they have no real enemies. Those who fight them are confused.
After you realize that your enemies don’t exist, you can see them more clearly. An argument becomes a discussion or dialogue. View it as a shared exploration of truth. Feelings are factual. In some sense, they are the ultimate truth. If you are mad, you are mad. Saying that someone “shouldn’t be mad” is like saying that the sun shouldn’t shine. It will keep shining regardless of you. Anger occurs when we argue with reality. We have an idea of how something should be, and that idea differs from how things are, or how we perceive them to be. We begin shoulding 💩 on ourselves. How someone expresses their madness is a topic for another day. The diction here is subtle yet important. Judgments are not factual. Arguments can quickly become zero-sum when people treat feelings as opinions. Be mindful of confusing how you feel with how you think.
When you reach a point where you believe that reality is subjective, you enable space to grow. Differences and divergence become accepted. Embracing the idea that the reality of someone other than yourself is different from yours is a great way to defeat an enemy and turn them into an ally. The opposite of love isn’t hate, its apathy. If an argument begins, it is because someone cares, not because they are apathetic. They are giving you the gift of their attention, a finite commodity. An opportunity for learning has been bestowed upon you. A chance to deepen connection has presented itself.
Meet the experience of another with curiosity and inquiry. From curiosity and inquiry, insights are generated. As insights are generated, knowledge is gained.
Our enemies are our greatest teachers. — Dalai Lama
- Recognize that your enemy isn’t an enemy. Humanize them. It is crucial to perform this step first. Nothing afterward will work if this isn’t done.
- Meet them with curiosity and inquiry. Seek to understand. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Many frameworks to facilitate this exist. NVC or Nonviolent Communication is one. RASA is another. RASA is the Sanskrit word for juice or essence. RASA in this instance stands for Receive, which means pay attention; Appreciate, making noises like “hmm,” “oh,” “okay”; summarize, the word “so” is significant in communication; and Ask, ask questions afterward.-Alistair McQuade
- An essential part of the S in RASA is about validating. Validation involves explaining to someone why their subjective reality makes sense, in your words. Parroting isn’t quite right, because it doesn’t require us to explain why the experience of another makes sense. If it doesn’t make sense to us, at a minimum, we can acknowledge that truth. An excellent way to practice this is by steelmanning. The steel man argument (or steelmanning) is the exact opposite of the straw man argument. The idea is to find the best form of the opponent’s argument to test opposing opinions.
- Embrace the learning and connection that has occurred. There may be opportunities for increased learning and connection, especially if your capacity to perform steps 1–3 is diminished. Acknowledge and appreciate, and then adjourn if needed. Integrate the experience.
- Rinse and repeat.
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