In grade school, one of our teacher’s, Mr. Jordan, had an unorthodox style for conflict resolution. Amidst several intense-frivolous peer to peer arguments, Mr. Jordan allowed the students to hash it out versus stepping in to cease the fight. Mr. Jordan’s conflict resolution policy was indeed laissez-faire – a policy that was conceived based on his strategy to expose ignorant behavior.
Following the conclusion of those verbal spats, like a pair of fatigued heavyweight contenders, the anger of both students subsided. It was then that Mr. Jordan would subtly step in to tell the quarrelsome pair: “if only you two could have seen how silly you looked.”
Those words were subtle, yet backbreaking in that both students had an epiphany, thereby realizing the fallacy in their actions.
In life, however, sometimes the results of verbal conflict are quite damaging. According to a case study sponsored by the National Health Institute, the lingering effects from stressful situations, such as intense episodes of arguing, can negatively impact one’s long-term health.
While verbal conflict occasionally makes us look foolish and or/can potentially cause long-term health damage, still, there’s room for a little oratory tug of war. Here’s why – the fact is we’re all different and will not agree on everything, hence an array of differing points of views. As stated in an article written by Dr. Jennifer Samp for Psychology Today, “arguing facilitates talk and awareness of another’s perspective” and “is beneficial to the health of human relationships.”
However, the problem is when a disagreement becomes a heated meaningless uncontrollable succession of differing opinions without purpose.
WHAT ARE YOU FIGHTING FOR?
I once had a girlfriend who had a penchant for starting arguments. We’d argue all the time. So much that, eventually I called it quits. Though before ending that relationship, I found myself depleted from the constant bouts of verbal conflict. As fatigue began to supersede my will to fight, instead of engaging the enemy, my then girlfriend, I opted to withdraw from battle.
Whenever I think about the energy I once expended on those meaningless fights, what was there to gain? Absolutely not a damn thing. Sure, psychological, it would’ve felt good to win those arguments and don the invisible verbal combat championship belt. But in actuality, I had nothing to gain except brief feel-good moments – moments that were devoid of intrinsic value.
On the other hand, some people engage in daily verbal warfare, but with purpose. People such as politicians, board members, and attorneys. They jostle with words and sometimes shout, all for the sake of candidacy, goodwill or justice. Simply stated, these men and women are fighting for something.
The above paragraph doesn’t nullify the arguments of all non-politicians, board members or attorneys. Instead, it sheds light on the importance of having a purpose and an end goal when hashing it out verbally. Some instances of verbal conflict are minor, but there is an end goal to the fight, hence purpose. Without a goal or a purpose, it’s best to circumvent verbal conflict.
HOW TO CIRCUMVENT VERBAL CONFLICT
There was a time when I was quite argumentative and always vied to have the last word. Thankfully, because of maturity and wisdom, I no longer wish to stand as the reigning champ of verbal combat.
Moreover, when realizing that an argument is a meaningless pursuit to a dead end, it’s time to disengage the enemy. Below are three advisory points to help diffuse verbal conflict and withdraw from the war. I have used all three strategies and to be quite honest, there were times when points 1 & 2 struck a nerve with the opposing party. Nonetheless, these pointers helped me achieve my goal to render my opponents with humility and silence.
1. The Silent Treatment
Instead of prolonging your participation in a silly debate, exercise your right to remain silent. Sometimes, for some people, it’s not about arguing a point, but instead, they’re seeking to get a rise out of you. Choosing to remain silent will prove to the opposing party that you’re immune to their antics. In recognition of your disinterest, your opponent will not have anyone to fight with, thus ending the war by remaining silent themselves.
2. The one-word response
When you’ve elected that enough is enough, and you wish not to proliferate all attempts to reason with your opponent, hit ‘em with a one-word response. When it’s your turn to speak, say “OK” or “Alright.” But compound your single word response with a look of disinterest. This act alone will, in so many words, tell the other person that you’ve withdrawn from the war and that there’s nothing more to discuss.
3. Agree to disagree
Agreeing to disagree or side with your opponent doesn’t equate to meekness. Instead, it is a calm resolve to end a meaningless feud. Remember, once you’ve expressed yourself, and common ground is nowhere in sight, there is nothing else to say – in fact, anything said beyond this point is mere fluff for dead ears.
WHEN TO WALK AWAY FROM VERBAL CONFLICT
As noted earlier, we’re all different. Accordingly, each of us has a different tolerance level for bullshit. And depending on the severity of the situation, sometimes neither of the proposed solutions for circumventing verbal conflict will work. That said, my proposed baseline litmus test to determine when to walk involves one of the following:
When disagreement becomes nonnegotiable disagreement, mainly after 2 or more rounds of disagreeing, WALK AWAY.
If discourse becomes contentious, WALK AWAY.
In fact, ask yourself this question: “why spar for two or more rounds when neither of you is willing to convert to each other’s lore?”
It’s OK to disagree, though it is not OK to continually disagree. Remember, if there is no prize for winning a debate, you shouldn’t entrench yourself into the madness.
I know that walking is the hardest thing to do, particularly when someone has pressed the right buttons, or worse, having done so in front of other people.
However, take the high road and evaluate the situation at hand. If the given argument is a draining feud without purpose, you’ll get ZERO return on time and energy invested in verbal conflict. And, too, like my former classmates, you may run the risk of looking silly. Lastly, you could open the door for long term health issues.
In light of such outcomes, conserve your time and energy via sidestepping verbal conflict or walking away. It’s that simple, everyone.