People argue all the time. They argue with spouses, parents, siblings, children, work colleagues, friends and even strangers. In life. At work. In sports. At the dining table. In cars. On vacations. Everywhere. Constantly.
They argue over big things and little things. Bad moods cause arguments. Lack of sleep causes arguments. But mostly, personal preferences cause arguments. One person may have a particular expectation or feeling about a situation and reacts with anger when the other person’s feelings or thoughts don’t match their expectations.
Actions obviously cause arguments, too. A person does something that another person doesn’t like and they use anger to voice their displeasure.
When you think about arguments, no matter what they are about or how serious they are, there is one thing that is common in all of them…they involve two people.
I have always hated arguments. My parents used to argue and it would make me sad, angry and often depressed to witness it. We had a lot of arguments in my house growing up. As I got older, I would do my best to avoid them by simply choosing not to fight back and bury my own thoughts or anger inside. Besides just seeing the ugliness of arguing and anger, I always felt it was such a foolish way to handle conflicts.
Over the past few years, as I began searching for ways to help me battle my own stress and anxieties, I found the solutions in Buddhism, mindfulness, meditation and yoga. Truly life changing for me. I have learned that by controlling my thoughts, I can control my entire life condition. I have learned that focusing on my breathing can help alleviate stress in any situation. I have learned to be grateful for everything. I have learned that by meditating daily, I can center my thoughts on the present and not the past or the future. And lastly, I have learned that I alone am responsible for my happiness.
While on this journey, the outside world doesn’t really give a crap that I am in a good place spiritually. And so on a daily basis, I am confronted with people and situations where an argument is part of my human experience. Whether it’s at home, work or just in normal situations with people, inevitably there are situations where one person is attempting to exert their views and perspective in an argumentative manner.
And so I started to use many of the buddhist principles I had studied and learned in order to guide me through these situations. And I found the simplest, least harmful and impactful way to avoid having arguments with people…to simply not have them!
While that may sound passive-aggressive, it’s actually just the opposite. I learned that by deciding not to argue, and choosing compassion in every situation, it’s actually an act of kindness and love.
In Buddhism, we are taught to see the suffering in people as the true root of their hurtful or unkind behavior towards others. That for every person who is full of rage, anger, meanness, rudeness, etc., often there is underlying pain. And when you understand this and also realize that no one has the power to control your own thoughts and happiness, you realize that arguing is actually just your own ego getting in the way.
When you fully take control of your thoughts, your desire to argue disappears. For what’s the purpose of trying to convince someone else of your own sense of self worth if you know that only you hold the key to it. It must begin with you feeling this way and believing in your heart of hearts that all of the answers to your happiness lie inside you. When you uncover this truth, you can’t help but see in people their suffering or pain and the need to “win” an argument becomes almost silly and ultimately futile.
And so the way I have learned to “win” every argument is to have compassion for the other person’s suffering. When I am in that situation, I am thinking to myself, “what must this person be suffering from?”, “what are they really protecting themselves from?”, “how sorry I feel for the pain they must be in”.
The great Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh (I often use many of his amazing quotes in my blogs) is someone that I have learned so much from about so many things. Mindfulness, compassion, kindness, meditation and more. Perhaps his greatest teaching for me has been on this topic of arguing and compassion. Here is an amazing video where he provides guidance on the subject.
So next time you find yourself in a situation with someone who is starting an argument, practice “deep listening” instead of trying to defend or protect your own ego. And the next time you feel like you are the one who wants to start an argument with someone, ask yourself, “what is the pain I am suffering from at this moment and how can I alone resolve it in my thoughts?” And when you do that, you will see, the best way to “win” every argument is to choose compassion for the other person, and for yourself.