Wednesday, April 20, 2011

In The Words of Dr. Phil...

... "Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?"

I find that some people enjoy contradicting others as if it were a sport. It is a compulsive urge, one they cannot control... like the obsessive need to be "right" all the time. This is the case with a few of my current coworkers as well as individuals I have had the pleasure of serving with in the military.

When talking with some people, it does not matter if you are repeating well-known facts or making idle conversation. Your contributions are always met with outright contradiction. It is as if some people have to prove they are more intelligent than everyone else is. Seeing this behavior in others doesn't make me stop and think "Oh, how smart you are!" In fact, it has the exact opposite effect on me. I don't see how intelligent they are but I do find their behavior to be a sad, outward statement of their own low self-esteem and their constant need to prove their self-worth to others.

The ability to show others respect when they express their own thoughts and opinions, without being rude and making ad hominem attacks towards them, is simply good manners. As they say down here in the South, "Make sure you raise 'em up right!" It is possible to politely disagree with someone without contradicting them. Choosing your words carefully and responding without instigating an argument is a sign of respectable character and good "raisin'" (and I don't mean the little dried up fruit).

Sadly, some people completely lack the ability to express their thoughts in such a way that it is does not sound rude and disrespectful. Bluntness can be rude, though those who use it will defend it by saying, "I'm just telling you how it is..." or "That's just how I am." In reality, these are just poor excuses for bad behavior. It remains that it is possible to express your opinion or disagree with someone without resorting to making inflammatory remarks. But some people simply don't care and choose to blurt out the first thing that pops into their diminutive head.

When people speak in absolutes, they are usually just expressing their opinion. Generally, they have no facts or evidence to support their position; and similarly, they lack the ability to admit they are only stating conjecture. When clearly proven wrong, they lack the ability to concede. They would rather instead argue on infinitum.... like children. Oh, what fragile egos they have.

Do you really want to be known as the self-righteous, asshole who never thought he/she was wrong and would argue with God? If you cannot have a discussion or exchange of ideas with someone without contradicting them, interrupting them, or diminishing them in some way, then you will soon find that many people, sans those who sadistically thrive on discourse, will not want to associate with you.

Life is not a never-ending contest. You don't always have to "win." Regretably, "win at any cost" seems to be a growing theme in today's society and we are passing on rudeness, hyper-competitveness, bad manners and ineffective life skills to our children. Sooner or later they are going to lose and how are they going to deal with that loss if they have no practical experience in gracefully admitting defeat.

"It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles, then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or demons, heaven or hell." - Buddha

"Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers." — Socrates

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; ..." - 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

In life, don't strive to win at any cost. Play hard, but play fair. Win or lose, the outcome of the contest should be the satisfaction of a game well played, a better understanding of the opponent, and hopefully a few lessons learned. A little humility is a good thing and will take you far in life.