How many times have you been in an argument, when your pride got in the way and you simply wouldn’t back down until you had won it?
Ask yourself the question: did you really win? Did you really need to go to those extreme lengths to make someone feel bad?
How is that person’s day going? And how are you feeling after the confrontation? Pumped up by your verbal victory? Or slightly chastened because deep down, you know you’re a little ashamed of yourself?
This kind of self-talk does not always apply to business because business relationships are impersonal.
But if you always need to be right in your arguments with family and friends, you have to wonder how well this compulsion has been serving you.
Are you becoming more popular with your loved ones? More importantly, are you being popular with your own self?
If you stop to think about this, your answer will surely be: no.
The people who have been trodden underfoot by you are hating your guts right now. They think you’re self-willed, selfish and therefore not someone they want to engage with the same way they had done in the past.
And while your ego was egging you on to say and do things you otherwise would not have, you’re quickly finding out that the so-called victory has only left a bad taste in the mouth.
So many relationships are destroyed like this every single day. Friendships break up, couples fall out of love, and neighbors avoid taking the same elevator down together.
Because a connection that was once strong and healthy has now been spoilt forever because of our ego-led desire to win.
I confess that I am still battling my own ego on this. I have to constantly catch myself from falling into the trap when I feel myself spiraling out of control.
But with self-regulation and practice, it can be done. The key to changing this behavior is 4 levels of awareness.
# 1: Be Aware Of Your Body
Take stock of your physical body when you feel an argument coming on. Notice your breathing. Curl your toes and consciously experience the pressure. Tighten your glutens and feel the softness of the sofa you’re sitting on. Small but deliberate actions like these bring you back to the present and you immediately feel more rational and in-your-body than you were feeling a few moments ago. And the emotions that were building up also start to dissipate.
# 2: Be Aware Of The Situation
Once you have taken a few moments to ground your body, take stock of the situation you’re currently in with another person. Step outside yourself and take a top-down view of the merits of the interaction. Then ask yourself: “What’s the point?” When your ego and emotions are both under control, you will usually find that there isn’t one.
# 3: Be Aware Of The Audience
People are different and so are the relationships they share with each other. For example, my mother and my wife are two very dissimilar people. So when I find myself in disagreement with them, I have to handle the conversation in very different ways. The blunt logic that would work well with my no-nonsense mother would probably upset the gentle nature of my wife and make the problem worse. And vice versa. People are at their most vulnerable when they are angry or hurt, so it is important to modulate your own behavior because, hey, you’re the one practicing self-awareness here, remember?
# 4: Be Aware Of The Consequence
Allow yourself to think of what will happen after you have won the argument. Weigh the pros of winning the battle against the cons of losing the whole war. Start counting your losses, and you will find you have as many to lose as the other person.
At the end of the day, we’re all imperfect in our own ways. Our thoughts, feelings and responses to different impulses don’t always match up because we’re unique. Hinging valuable relationships on the hope that we will always be in agreement is a foolish expectation. Negotiate the differences instead, and find a middle ground where you can agree to disagree and move on from there.
Without rocking the boat on a relationship or saying hurtful, unpleasant things that cannot be unsaid later on. Or losing loved ones in a trail of failed relationships because we always need to be right.