Applying the Advice to Friendship
As we've discussed here, getting into an argument with a friend isn't necessarily a bad thing. Most of the time it means that you both care about your friendship so passionately that you want it to be the best it can be. How you get that message across, however, can sometimes cause an even bigger problem.
While How to Argue seems to be geared more toward business or professional relationships, there were several valuable tips that could apply to friendship. The first bit of advice I found helpful is to figure out what you want out of the argument before you even begin the argument. If what you want isn't realistic (and be honest with yourself here), then perhaps it isn't worth getting into.
What immediately popped into my mind when I read this were discussions related to politics and religion, two subjects that will never have a desirable outcome if you're arguing solely to change someone else's mind.
To that end, the author makes the suggestion to get the facts straight before engaging in any argument. This is good advice, and something that even the most well-intentioned people seem to have a problem with. We tend to gravitate toward arguments that prove what we believe instead of looking for the proper facts and then making our decision based on that.
The Purpose in Arguing
The book provides plenty of examples of the right and wrong way to argue, which people will find extremely helpful. There are also quotes peppered throughout that underscore the author's points.
An argument, for this book's purpose, seems to be defined as any discussion where you disagree or are trying to persuade another person. It isn't always about conflict in the normal course of a relationship, per se. To help sort out the argument process, the book starts with "10 Golden Rules" when it comes to arguing. These are different than the generally accepted Golden Rule, and instead focus on how to persuade and talk effectively when discussing things with another person.
Avoiding an Argument
Friendship.About.com readers will especially appreciate the second "rule" of the book, which is about when to argue and when to avoid an argument by walking away. It says you need to think about:
- Could there be a productive outcome from this argument?
- Is it better to have the argument in private or with other people around?
- Do you have the information you need to make a good argument?
- Are you feeling emotionally ready for an argument?
- Is the other person emotionally ready to hear your arguments?
While most of these are solid, for our purposes regarding friendship, arguments should never be in front of other people. Part of making your friendship a safe place is having it out with a friend in private so you both can say what you need to say without getting others involved.
Another tip from the book is brevity. I agree with this wholeheartedly. Sometimes bringing up an issue becomes a "dump session" where one friend goes on and on in complaining about a certain issue. This behavior only tends to confuse friends trying to make sense of the argument. The book advises you to know how to say what you want briefly so your friend can absorb it.
Don't Attack and Watch What You Say Through Email
Another tip: don't attack. The author says to avoid phrases like:
- "You're just impossible."
- "You just think you're so clever."
- "There's no point arguing with you."
These types of statements put a friend on the defensive and finding a resolution will be more difficult.
I was glad to see that the book addressed email, as it's one of my concerns as well when it comes to conflict. Writing an email to someone can make the entire argument much worse. Or, it can take a small misunderstanding and create a big conflict from it. The book gives tips on what to avoid when sending an email, and how to stop and think before hitting "send."
How to Argue Falls Short When Talking About Emotions
One of the things that disappointed me about How to Argue was a lack of emphasis on emotions. When people argue, their emotions get involved, and friends especially need to know how to manage them in order to find a successful, positive resolution to the problem. This book was also geared mainly toward professional relationships, so friends looking for inspiration would need to stretch in order to apply the lessons here.
Book Details For How to Argue: Powerfully, Persuasively, Positively by Jonathan Herring
- Published by: FT Press 1 edition (April 27, 2012)
- Available in Paperback, Kindle
- ISBN-10: 0132980932
- ISBN-13: 978-0132980937