Rules for Avoiding an Argument

I’m not exactly sure why, but for some reason people seem to enjoy arguing with me.

Maybe it’s because they value my opinion and want to test their own. (I hope that’s the reason!)

Maybe it’s because they think I’m hopelessly lost, and they can help me find my way through an issue. (Good luck with that.)

Maybe it’s because they find me to be very opinionated and wonder if I’ve truly considered my position. (If I’ve articulated it, I assure you that I have considered it very carefully.)

People seem to think that because I was a lawyer in a previous life, I must enjoy arguing, but that’s not true. Lawyers don’t argue because they enjoy it; they argue because they are paid to do so. Just about every lawyer I know hates to argue because there’s usually a lot at stake, including his or her ego and the fate of a client.

Through the years, I’ve developed some basic rules for avoiding an argument that have served me well. Staying out of arguments is a good thing. When you’ve argued for a living, it’s hard to remember that feelings can be hurt and relationships damaged because of something as simple and commonplace as a minor disagreement.

I can have an argument with someone and walk away thinking “Wow! That was a great intellectual exercise. I learned something from the other perspective, and hope they learned something from mine.”

That all seems just fine until I realize the other person is no longer speaking to me because I tried to calmly and professionally disagree with them. It was nothing personal for me.

The law will do that to you.

I find the fishing industry to be a pretty homogenous, like-minded society. Sure, there are differences among us, but nothing like a true cross-section of America. Anglers and those of us who make our living in fishing have more to bind us than divide us, but we’re also strong-willed and opinionated, so arguments happen.

That’s why I have four simple rules to keep me out of arguments. In the hopes they’ll do the same for you, I share them here.

1. Do not argue with someone whose opinion is of no interest to you.

Why get all fired up when you don’t care what the other person thinks? That’s just stupid, but you see people fall prey to this all the time. I had a friend (a lawyer, of course), who would engage people in the street or at sporting events just to point out flaws in their comments or thinking. What a waste of time! For him, arguing was a hobby.

2. Do not argue with someone who is incapable of presenting relevant and valid points.

You know what I’m talking about. And I’ll bet you’ve argued with people who simply had no idea what they were talking about but continued because they were loud, obnoxious and had no other plan than to keep talking without saying anything of consequence. Avoid them and you avoid most arguments.

3. Do not argue with someone who does not listen.

Interrupting me, talking over me and failing to consider my perspective simply because you disagree with it is a fast and easy way to get me to stop arguing. People like that are rude, closed-minded and not worth my time. If you want to see these people by the dozens, hundreds or even thousands, just turn on the television news and look for protesters. On either side of any issue, the protesters are mostly made up of people like this.

4. Do not argue with someone too stupid to realize that he or she has lost the argument.

This one really keeps me out of the fray. If I have no reason to believe that the other person will realize he or she has lost, I’m out before I waste my breath.

The best thing about my Rules for Arguing is that occasionally I get to tell someone about them. It usually goes like this:

They make some outlandish statement and see a look on my face indicating that I obviously disagree.

“You don’t agree, do you?”

“No, I don’t,” I tell them.

“So, what’s your argument?” they ask.

That’s when I tell them my four Rules for Avoiding an Argument. By the time I get to “Don’t argue with someone too stupid to realize he’s lost” and I tell them that they have checked each and every one of the four boxes, they’re usually pretty angry, and I’m trying not to laugh.

But even then you have to be careful. That’s almost guaranteed to start an argument.