In The Ranch Hand’s Guide to 2011 I listed five guidelines that I’ve adopted to have a great year without resolutions. Let’s just get some facts out of the way. This article is not about pigs or dirt. I realize I like to talk using idioms and metaphors. If you are still wondering, rule #1 translates into “when it really doesn’t matter, you don’t need to argue with people.”
Before I was ever able to recognize this in myself, I saw this undesirable trait in other people. You know you have too. I watched someone argue over a restaurant bill. I heard friends and family members complain about their embarrassment when someone they were with argued with the Wal-mart checker. The people I know who argue do it all the time…and are pretty good at it. They usually aren’t happy with getting the last word. They need to have the last two or three words, and when I really don’t care, they are still talking about it. Those people are not good listeners and have a low tolerance for people who are different from them. It dawned on me that maybe this is how they create a positive view of who they are. I realized there were situations when I had argued unnecessarily. Yuck. It was unattractive and it had to stop.
I began practicing this rule using baby steps. I stopped talking before I had said everything I felt I “needed” to say. My opponent and I were never left any better than when we started, so what was the use? Then, I took the plunge into not even addressing the silly things that I once thought were important. Silly things. That’s the key. Who cares if I ordered rice and I got rice and beans. I like them both. Then to take it a little further, I started extinguishing the beginnings of arguments started between, for example, my husband and others. Wow! What a difference in the conversations that followed between us. Suddenly the complaints were gone and discussions of our role in the perceived problem ensued.
If this has left you with the thought that I am a pushover, you haven’t gotten it yet. The key is to figure out what does and doesn’t matter. You may need to continue arguing with your children; that goes without saying. They matter. Some things are worth arguing over: grades, self-destructive choices, criminal activity. This guide is really more about listening to other people and recognizing their need to be understood. It’s also about finding value in other people and situations that could be of benefit to you. It’s about letting go of your need to have the last word or be right all of the time. It’s also about spotting those people who, like pigs, don’t mind getting dirty and ruining your favorite jeans while they do it. Use your words wisely.
“If you are explaining, you are losing.” ~ J.C. Watts