I enjoy a good discussion. A thought-provoking conversation is educational, entertaining and a great form of social interaction. As a life-long learner, I love to consider other points of view. But recently I’ve found myself avoiding these debates as they often turn into heated arguments.
There are a lot of controversial topics out there right now: the transgender restroom issue, the presidential candidates, immigration, and religion (as always throughout time). Whenever people are passionate about a cause, emotions can override reason, and a good discussion can turn into forced opinions, inconsideration, and even personal attacks.
You remember the old sayings, “Choose your battles,” and “Think before you speak.” Still wise advice. I find myself choosing to sit out more often, especially when participants don’t follow the “rules.” A good, old-fashioned debate has the intention of persuading others and trying to change public opinion. Constructive arguments that are supported by factual evidence are presented in a pros/cons format by opposing teams to develop clear, logical and substantiated claims for each position.
What I hear now in waiting rooms, restaurants and through social media are emotionally driven, overbearing presentations of opinion that clearly deliver blame and personal attacks on groups, entities or individuals. There is little or no logical evidence, but an angry rant of subjective and often profane content.
I saw a quote recently that read, “One of the hardest things to do is keep your mouth shut when you know something needs to be said.” If one takes a mindful moment to reflect on the argument, one can simply choose not to respond. At all. I ask myself, is it worth my time and energy to enter an argument where people are not interested in reason? I have much more productive things to which I can attend.
These discussions-turned-arguments can actually be damaging. Besides angering people who feel their view is not heard or respected, participants who feel personally attacked may be in a delicate state of mind. If you are suffering from grief, depression or anxiety, being a part of these emotionally-charged discussions can lead to poor self-esteem and a sense of a loss of control or influence. “My opinions aren’t valued.” “No one respects me.” “I can’t make a difference.”
When debating whether to argue, remember that you don’t have to. Your viewpoint is valid whether or not it is heard.