The sun shone like there was no tomorrow. The heat was stifling and a gentle breeze was the only reprieve. The grass was almost brown in the dry heat. Benji was strolling in the park with his guardian. After turning a corner along the hedge, there was a sharp yelping. He saw a little dog tugging at her lead trying to get to him. Standing and almost choking on her two hind legs, she was barking incessantly at him. He plodded over to her and stared at her for a few seconds. She was barking and showing her teeth, her coat clearly ruffled to appear bigger. He then turned away nonchalantly and plodded back to his guardian to continue his walk. The little dog received no response from Benji and finally stopped barking when she felt he could not hear her anymore.
When you are quarrelling with someone in your life, do you try to explain yourself? When you are not understood, do you feel indignant? Do you try to ‘win’ the argument? What happens when you do, do you feel better then?
The reality is that no one ever ‘wins’ an argument. Even if you are correct and managed to convince the other party of your point of view (which may be correct), once negative feelings are created, no one really wins. You may have won the battle but have lost the war, the bigger picture.
Socrates famously travelled around Athens, approaching the people he disagreed with most, and engaging them in long discussions. In these discussions – or what we have of them- there are many examples of his conversation mates getting exasperated, upset, or aggravated by his many questions. Indeed, the people of Athens eventually got so upset, that they sentenced Socrates to death.
But Socrates never seemed to get upset himself. Even when talking about matters of life and death, he always kept his cool. He was much more interested in hearing what the other person had to say than making sure he was heard or – as most of us insist upon – winning the argument.
Hesiod, the poet, said that “the best treasure is a sparing tongue.” Robert Greene considers it a law of power: Always Say Less Than Necessary,
We talk because we think it’s helping, whereas, in reality, it’s making things hard for us. If our spouse is venting, we want to tell them what they should do. In fact, all they actually want us to do is to hear them. In other situations, the world is trying to give us feedback or input, but we try to talk ourselves out of the problem – only to make it worse.
The next time you face a political dispute or a personal disagreement, ask yourself: Is there any reason to fight about this? Is arguing going to help solve anything? Would an educated or wise person really be as quarrelsome as you might initially be inclined to be? Or would they take a breath, relax, and resist the temptation for conflict?
In the heat of the moment, are you able to remember that no one wins in an argument (even when one turns out to be correct)? Would you be part of the problem or strive to be part of the solution? Will you hear the wisdom of the world or drown it with more noise?
There is a Chinese saying, 忍一时，风平浪静。退一步，海阔天空。“When you bite your tongue for a moment, the winds will be calm and the waves will be quiet. When you take a step back, the oceans will be as vast as the clear skies.” When you do not engage in a conflict, quarrel or argument, you will have access to a calm part of you, be privy to your inner tranquillity that knows better and step into your Natural Power that elevates you into the better version of you. You only need to take the first step of not engaging. Just think of what you could accomplish – and how much better you would feel – if you could conquer the need to fight and win every tiny little thing.
Benji understood there was no need to voice out anything to the little barking dog and walked away in peace, unscathed and without harm. What arguments, conflicts or quarrels do you NOT need in your life to be able to escalate your soul?
“The beautiful and good person neither fights with anyone nor, as much as they are able, permits others to fight… this is the meaning of getting an education – learning what is your own affair and what is not. If a person carries themselves so, where is there any room for fighting?” – Epictetus, Discourses, 4.5.1;7b-8a