Influencing People

Dale Carnegie says “The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.”  Naturally, I disagree.  To avoid an argument shows cowardess, a disrespect for onself and the other seeking to convey a point or a necessary conversation where a dispute is required to resolve a disagreement.  Arguments, when done correctly, can help a friendship grow by leaps and bounds.  If done with respect and in moderation, hidden viewpoints can come to the surface that may have been needed and not seen before and a deeper respect can be developed for sharing thoughts, opinions and feelings in a respectful way. Friendships can grow in knowledge, understanding, and enjoyment when solutions are discovered and put into action.  If a person holds in all discontentment, not sharing what is bothering them out of fear of an argument, then the problem either goes away in time or one side settles without argument, without being heard and if this continues in a pattern, one might feel unimportant, unable to express their viewpoints, like a doormat and can also be viewed by the other party as weak, unable to express a solid opinion due to fear or insecurity.

It’s no secret that some just enjoy arguing, tearing away at another’s self esteem to point out flaws, on a constant path of complaining to get what they want.  It’s up to the other person to decide if they will give in by changing, by not saying a word, or by arguing.  Arguing can be healthy, as it offers a chance to improve or make someone else happier, or a chance to be stubborn and inattentive to what is being said or what the other person dislikes.  Mr. Carnegie has recommendations for arguing, most of which I agree with, which is to welcome and appreciate the disagreement or the fact that the other person has taken the time out to point out the issue; managing reaction so not to fire off on the defense, but to listen to what is being said, checking oneself for truth, and defending your personal opinion or your own viewpoints with respect and tact; staying on course, addressing the specific issues so it can be an effective argument with an actual solution and not just yelling and screaming with no outcome other than to yell nonsense.  Looking for areas of agreements, solutions, honesty, and taking time to think it over.

I’ve argued exhaustively with boyfriends, but not really friends.  It’s a different dynamic because the friend goes home or to their room to take in what was said; they may consult other friends or family to validate their position, and they may decide the opposing view has no point and may not even bother to follow back up to resolve the dispute; leaving it open, allowing the friendship to end on that note.  A good healthy argument takes both sides into consideration, views external conditions, and can see if the person is conjuring up stuff because of other life issues or is “taking it out on you” because it is a safe place for them or the person sees what is disliked and is open to changing it, if it’s within their power to do so.  Some may just agree to disagree and walk away having a better understanding of acceptance of that person or a better understanding of why that person does what they do.

“Show respect for a person, never say “you’re wrong.”  I don’t mind hearing I’m wrong, as long as you have presented an argument based on facts or can communicate and control your emotions, along with a clear understanding of purpose and meaning in what you are after in the argument.  If it is an argument about how I made you feel, well then I need specific circumstances, situations, and examples before I can even apologize or understand what I need to do to protect your feelings again.  Dr. Phil says no one can make anyone feel a certain way!  I never understood this, but I think he was trying to say it’s your choice how you feel, it’s not up to anyone else, so in that, I can’t blame someone for hurting my feelings, but I can say, I didn’t like when you said this to me; or I’d rather you didn’t speak to me in that tone or say bad things about me.  If someone said this to me, I’d have to know exactly what I said and I’d need an opportunity to decide if it’s worth defending or apologizing.  Maybe they deserved it at the time and were so screwed up in their thinking.  Personally I’d prefer to hear something like “I think you’re wrong and here’s why I think so.”  If I value that person’s friendship and opinions, I might be open minded to listen to another way, but if the style of argument is just an attack without purpose and intent to help, then I can’t even engage in it.

There are a million things people can argue about and it all boils down to the fact that one person is not happy, so the goal is to make the other person happy by figuring out what it is.  Some people don’t know what made them unhappy, but find something to satisfy the need to argue.  They may have been previously angry about one thing, choosing to verbalize another thing because that is what is one their mind at the time.  So if friends find themselves in a constant pattern of unhappiness and arguments, they might want to take space and spend time apart where they can then decide if they truly value the friendship.  After taking time apart, they might realize they were relying on their friend to solve an internal problem that they themselves had the power to solve and were using their friend to project feelings onto or using their friend to solve their own inner deficiency.  The possibilities are endless, but just remember, friendships are not built on arguments; although they may occur and you can grow from them, they are not enjoyable conversations and can end up in fights and end the relationship.

Before you can begin to influence a person or win them over to your way of thinking, you must have a purpose in mind and a valid reason.  Some friends influence your thinking in a very negative way, to include dragging you down into their style of living, their negative mindset, or their way of life because they believe need companionship or your approval to feel better about themselves or the friendship.  Peer influences can be healthy or dangerous depending upon the strength of a person and the friendship in longevity can sway a person’s mind changing their beliefs, values, internal self worth, and likability of another person.  An argument is not required to change the beliefs of a person or to change the way a person interacts.  Usually tactful discussions might work if the person’s opinion is valued and honored; an important ingredient in a true friendship. If one’s opinion is not valued or welcomed, then what is the purpose of the friendship?  If you can’t agree to disagree or adapt to meet the friends’ need, then they are no longer of value and the friendship or complaint holds no worth.

I hate it when you…
I feel like this when you….
You don’t seem to care when …
I don’t feel important to you…
I don’t like it when you…

Some people can address their problems directly, others indirectly, hinting around at problem areas, hoping for change.  Some choose avoidance because the amount of dislikes or discontent in a person is not worth the energy required to change it.  Some don’t feel they have the power or right to change another person or vocalize areas of discontent.

I had this one friend that didn’t enjoy combining drinking with other social activities like camping and dancing.  Because of this, she appeared boring, less fun, so instead of telling her I wish she’d drink more and complain less, I respected her ability to go out without a reliance on alcohol and found other friends that enjoyed the kinds of fun that I enjoyed. I certainly wasn’t going to try to get her to drink more just because I enjoyed drinking, so I resolved it in my mind that we enjoyed activities differently; seeking out friends that could do the same.  We would go to movies and have lunch, talking about all of the fun I was having, while she complained about her married life.  I watched our friendship silently erode as we became friends with others.  Ultimately, the friendship died because of boredom and her inability to engage in fun activities or because we found others.  I didn’t bother to tell her about our differences, but remained friends in other settings, finding some value and satisfaction at various times.  It died when longevity and help in a time of need was not there.  Could I have turned her into a party goer, a more upbeat, and exciting person that didn’t get in the bathtub at 7pm everynight?  I suppose I could’ve, but it would’ve taken work.  Could I have communicated to her that I was tired of hearing her complain about her financial problems and showed her how stupid she looked when she complained about her husbands’ spending one day and went on an Anne Kline Shopping spree the next time we’d hang out?  I could’ve said a lot of things, but I chose not to, in order to protect her feelings but I decided to sit back and observe her obsession with possessions instead.

Dale says to begin in a friendly empathetic way and focus on things where you agree instead of where you differ.  I suppose that works to a point, unless you find that everything differs, then you are forced to interact where you agree or there is no friendship.

I think about my friend who used to complain about her life everytime we’d meet. I wondered if I somehow played a role in her style of communications.  As in, if I had a problem I needed her help with, I’d ask her, and then after we’d discuss it; I’d ask her how her marriage was going in an open ended way.  She’d begin to share her problems.  I wondered why she didn’t ever start off on a happy note, like yes, we’re doing so good, I am finally so happy or we’re planning a vacation and we’re really excited about buying our new house; but because the past complaints about their finances and the struggle was there, perhaps her negativity and approach to marital success was what caused the dislike.  She often complained of her husbands overspending and then the next week or two, she’d come back with news that they’ve decided to buy a house or a new car.  She caused a lot of confusion; especially in the beginning of their relationship; coming out of another marriage riddled with problems and unhappiness.  I guess the lesson to be learned was be careful how you share your problems and make sure you communicate your plans for solving them so it’s not a dumping session and shock in the next meeting. I recall wanting to reach out and slap her so many times; like, why can’t you see the good in people and communicate what is happy instead of what is bad?  Try this, ‘my husband is doing great at work, I’m so proud of him and since he’s gotten a raise, we can finally afford to buy a new house.  I’ve been spending a lot of time cutting pictures out of magazines and made this album of dream homes and we’re really excited that it’s becoming reality.”  Now that’s an exciting conversation!!!!  Rather than, we have to ask my Mother in Law for some money and he’s an overspender, buying unnecessary things, I just don’t think we’re going to be able to be happy in the house we’re living in since his mom owns it.  (SHE HAD MOM PROBLEMS BEFORE).  It’s not a problem to share problems, you just have to do it optimistically or vocalize that you’re having difficulty being optimistic about it; then your friend will encourage you and be aware if you’re stuck in a pattern of negativity or self abuse.

So, it’s how you say things and communicate your situation that matters.  For example:  I really enjoy my new single life.  I went out on a few dates already, but I’m not sure it’s what I’m looking for, but I’m certainly having fun in the process.  Rather than, I am so broke from partying every weekend and so unhappy at work and my single life that I am considering leaving the area to go back home and establish roots; something I am already aware of and am not looking for advice on until I make an announcement.  AS YOU SEE, I can’t form a negative sentence about my lifestyle without offering my friend my solution and asking their opinion on what I plan to do.  Even though my friend knew me before I was single, I didn’t dwell on past problems.  If I complained, I would offer my self-optimism before I left my friend, saying I know it’s just a temporary rut because I don’t want to leave my friend feeling like she has to pull me out of a negative situation or leave her feeling bad and worrying for me.



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