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“A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”


Try to remember the last time you were butting heads with someone.  You can see this all the time with a husband and wife, two people in a meeting, or between a parent and child.  Everyone has this strong feeling that they are right…they are doing something the right way, or something is just not important.  It happens when we find ourselves going in circles, trying to pull the other person over to our way of thinking. 

Most people have a very, very strong ego.  An ego that tells us that we are right and that if we can simply stick to our guns, the other person will come around to our way of thinking.  We tend to forget that not only do we have an ego, but so does the other person.  True, some people have some control over their ego, but most people don’t.  This ego, this strong will, is what we battle when we are trying to convince the other person that we are right and they are wrong. 

My Work Conflict

Many people have small conflicts each and every day.  Some of those conflicts remain small, while others grow into an outright argument.  I remember having small conflicts all the time while working in the office.  Most of these small conflicts occurred when the lead developers would have meetings about software design or system architecture.  My buddy, Tony, and I would often see things very differently about how something should be implemented.  It would take a one to two hour meeting to come to an agreement over something that should have been able to be decided within 15 to 30 minutes.  Tony would feel very strongly one way, and I would feel very strongly the other.  We would go back and forth trying to convince the other who was right.  Thank the Lord for Viraj, the third senior developer on the team, who could always break the tie with his opinion. 

Since there were three senior guys, this always worked out.  Viraj typically sided with Tony’s design…pretty much all but one time.  I don’t know what that says about me, or Tony for that matter, but I remember my ego could only accept the decision by saying, “if this doesn’t work out well, I won’t say I told you so…I will just moan and groan a little and you will know what I mean.”  I left the meetings many times accepting the decision, but still believing my design was best.  I was convinced to accept the decision by vote, but left the meetings of the opinion that my design was the right one. 

As I reflect back on this now, Tony and I would typically agree that both designs would have worked and would have been fine, so why did we waste so much time holding on to our opinions?  I can’t really speak for Tony, but I can tell you that my ego got the best of me.  I remember times when I left the meeting so frustrated that I could feel it in my stomach.  I had been convinced against my will and I was of the same opinion still!!! 

Who’s Doing the Dishes?

Married couples experience small conflicts all the time, and I am no exception.  Have you ever argued over who was going to do the dishes? How about taking the garbage out or when dinner will be done? Try to have that argument and enforce your will on your spouse. I assure you they will have a rational reason why things are as they are. And no amount of arguing on your part will change their mind.  

The interesting thing is that in the grand scheme of things, everything is temporary.  99% of these conflicts we have won’t mean a thing the next day and will be forgotten.  Why should we insist on getting our way and having a battle when what we typically are defending or fighting for will not matter in an hour, a day, a week, or a month.  When I find myself in one of these situations where I feel like I am going back and forth with another person, when my ego is up to the battle, I pause and think.  I remember that trying to convince someone when they are not ready will never work.  Proving someone wrong rarely brings anyone to your side of thinking, so why battle, unless it is very important.

The Takeaway

I am able to avoid a lot of arguments remembering this one little reminder and simply realizing that it just isn’t important or worth a big argument over something small.  I also remember that I value the relationship with the person over the argument, which helps me to calm down a bit and puts things in perspective.  And the relationship is what is really important.

No need damaging a relationship over something that really doesn’t matter.  If you can’t convince someone in five minutes to your way of thinking, it probably won’t happen.  Therefore, use this reminder. Value the relationship over being right, and move forward in life, happier and with less confrontations.  For me, this reminder has stopped many arguments before they even started. 

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