When you get into an argument, are you a fighter or a winner?

Growing up, I always had to have the last word. If I couldn’t have the last word, at least I could stick my tongue out or make a face. At home, I could go in my room and say all the mean comebacks I wasn’t allowed to say out loud… but I usually did say them out loud. You wouldn’t want to get me started on an argument because I was never going to let anything go.

This is something that stuck with me through my young adult years. I felt so passionately about my thoughts and opinions that I would argue them until I was blue in the face. I would get so outraged at someone implying that I had done something wrong that I would meticulously dissect the accusations and parry them one by one. I was told many times growing up that I should have been a lawyer because of my articulate and persistent argumentative skills. ::insert eyeroll::

It took a very long time for me to have a mindset shift around the need to prove my point and have the last word in a disagreement. More often than not these days, I tend to take the stance that as long as I know how I feel and feel strongly that my opinion is correct, it truly doesn’t matter if the other person disagrees. Even if their opinion is that I have done something wrong, it doesn’t mean that it’s true or that they deserve my attention.

If I can reflect on my actions and come to the conclusion that the way I handled the situation was indeed appropriate, or that the accusations against me are inaccurate, then I make peace with the situation and move on. What is important to me is my opinion of myself, my peace of mind, and putting my energy into what matters.

This philosophy applies to random “internet trolls” as well as colleagues at work and close family members. These days, I take time to think before I speak (gasp!) and take great care with the words that come out of my mouth. I don’t make flippant comments or retorts, so I’m much less likely to regret or need to repeal something I’ve said.

Learning how to filter my thoughts and commentary, and choose my words more carefully up front, allows me to trust myself more. I feel more confident that I handled the situation well in the first place, so I don’t get as emotional about someone disagreeing with or making a rude comment toward me.

Whenever a situation like this comes up, of course I can always think of something to say. I can probably think of five or ten things to say in response to that person’s ugly comment or ridiculous response. The difference is that I now understand that they are being childish, unprofessional, or unreasonable; possibly it’s a fundamental difference of opinion that will not be served by insisting on my point.

The light bulb moment happens when you realize that it takes more strength to walk away than it does to “stay and fight.” Toddlers can throw tantrums, yell at you, and persist on a topic until everyone is miserable. It’s the person who is emotionally mature enough to walk away, realizing that to continue is pointless, who has really won.

The checklist in my mind goes something like this now:

-Was my original comment valid, or was I missing information and need to reconsider?

-Is this person’s comment accurate or not?

-Is this a simple misunderstanding, or a fundamental difference of opinion that will likely remain unchanged no matter how long we go back and forth?

-Is this person likely to every agree with me, or only dig in their heels?

-If I drop it and move on, what’s the worst that could happen?

If my ultimate conclusion is that my comment/action was legitimate, I move down the list. If I was in error, I admit it and readjust. If I realize they cannot be swayed and that there is no point to pushing my thoughts, I drop it. You wouldn’t make yourself crazy over a disagreement with a 4 year old, would you? If this person is being unreasonable, let it go!

The funny thing about “letting them have the last word” is that you can feel confident about two things:

1. In reality, it’s probably making them furious that you won’t continue to engage with them OR concede that they are right.

2. You come out looking more professional, mature, and in control because the other person has no ability to sway your emotions or actions.

You want to really win? Walk away and refuse to play.

Loving this mindset shift and wanting more? You definitely need to pick up a copy of my book Navigating & Avoiding Awkward Conversations: How to speak to anyone about anything. Available on Amazing, Kindle, and Audible. Until next time!

Julie Crenshaw is a Conversation Coach and author. Her book, “Navigating & Avoiding Awkward Conversations: How to speak to anyone about anything,” has helped readers all over the world improve their communication skills. Follow her on Instagram to learn more about the art of conversation.

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I help those who desire to speak with confidence & connection know how/what to say.

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Julie Crenshaw

Julie Crenshaw

I help those who desire to speak with confidence & connection know how/what to say.

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