To Fight or Not to Fight? That is the Question

Do you enjoy a good fight? I don’t but I know some people who do. Regardless of who we are interacting with, differences of opinion, issues , and conflict will arise periodically. Some approach arguments with zest, others with great trepidation, and some avoid them at all costs. There are times when it is wise to circumvent the issue; other times they must be addressed head on. But is it possible to prevent a discussion from escalating into a full-blown fight? And how do you know when to proceed and when to simply walk away?

Let’s begin by identifying the difference between a discussion, argument, and fight. Upon consulting with Mr. Webster, as I often do, and analyzing the definition of each term, I discovered the following: discussions, debates, disagreements, and disputes share certain characteristics. They are an exchange of opposing ideas – plain and simple. Arguments, on the other hand, include an additional component of proof: proof of accuracy or fact, proof of being right. The moment we engage in issues of right and wrong we run the risk of a civil discussion escalating into an argument. Many people struggle with insecurity and pride and will resist being proven wrong. It’s humiliating and embarrassing and in order to maintain their dignity they will defend their position regardless.

Fighting involves an element of hostility – a desire to overcome an individual; to gain control over; to dominate. Now, a mere disagreement has intensified to issues of authority over the other party to which they may respond with self-protective aggression in order to preserve their position and safety. While it certainly seems more advantageous to rationally and calmly discuss an issue, how does one know if and when it is necessary to elevate a debate into a full-blown (verbal)fight?

Here are a few points to consider:

First: Determine the nature and seriousness of the issue at hand. It will fall into one of three possible categories:
a) insignificant (let it go – not worth the time or effort*)
b) important (needs to be discussed to obtain a possible resolution)
c) critical (matter of life or death, moral issue, involving personal safety – absolutely imperative to get resolved).

Second: Examine your motives and intent.
a) Are you seeking to be right? To prove the other party wrong? Do you want to teach them a lesson, put them in their place, or simply make a point? Are you arrogant, self-righteous, hurtful or mean-spirited? If so, you are operating in a place of ego and need to reexamine your motives.
b) Are you interested in learning about the other person’s ideas, values, needs, and wants? Do you have a strong desire to gain a deeper understanding and awareness of the issue at hand? Are you concerned about clearing up a possible misunderstanding, resolving a problem, healing a rift, assisting the other party, or preventing harm from occurring? Spirit concerns itself equally with the well-being of all parties and make morally responsible choices.

So much of what we fight about is relatively insignificant in the whole scheme of life. Put everything into perspective. While debating issues can be exciting and rewarding, it is fully within our grasp to maintain them at a safe level and prevent them from escalating into something far more serious and destructive. Be discerning. Reserve the intense emotions for the issues that hold true significance. And even then, remain open-minded, fair, reasonable, and respectful. You will gain far more traction in successfully resolving the dispute when maintaining your integrity.

*Refer to the 10 Year Rule: “Will this issue matter in ten years? Will I even remember it?” If the answer is “no” then let it go.

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