May 2008

He Says, She Says: Fighting

Author: Keith Kelson, Jean Wharton

He Says…
By Keith Kelson

For the record, let it be known that a woman did win the first argument. Eve convinced Adam to eat the fruit from that tree after they had an argument. Adam was caught completely off guard. Eve was the perfect woman made just for him. If she was arguing with him, he had to be doing something wrong.

“If you love me, you’ll do what the nice snake says we should do,” Eve said. Adam, being a nice guy and all didn’t want to be known as the world’s first lousy husband. That rep would be impossible to shake.

He also knew that SportsCenter was about to come on, so he went ahead and took a bite of the forbidden fruit. While Adam made Eve happy, he made someone else very, very angry.

They soon were evicted—kicked to the curb, banished forever from paradise. Being banished of course, caused another argument. Adam, still in a daze from eating that apple, lost that one as well.

But an important lesson was learned for all future generations. Men, you have to be able to win an argument if you don’t want to be kicked out of paradise.

Women will of course, argue that Adam didn’t have to eat that apple. “He needed a spine,” they’ll say. “She didn’t have a gun to his head.”

You can argue with a woman about poor Adam and how he let the best real estate on the planet slip through his fingers all for a piece of fruit, but it would be pointless. You won’t win, and winning is what this article is all about. Because, we all know that men and women are gonna argue eventually, let me help you with your arguing style.

1) Treat arguing with a woman like a baseball game. If you somehow manage to get your batting average to .400 you’re a surefire lock for the Hall Of Fame. Yes that means you’re gonna fail 60 percent of the time, but just like getting a hit in baseball is incredibly hard, so is winning an argument with a woman. If you start to dip too close to the “Mendoza Line,” however, you should prepare to hold her purse during trips to the mall.

2) Enter The Dragon. Buy or rent Bruce Lee’s cinematic masterpiece and it will teach you the art of “fighting without fighting.” Once you learn to use the art of fighting without fighting during an argument with a woman, you’ll never be the same. Keep your eyes peeled for a young Jackie Chan in the underground cavern scene.

3) Go on and cry. Women love to use this one—it snatches victory from the jaws of defeat more times often than not. You’re gonna add it to your arsenal as well, but with a twist. Everyone knows that a man who cries is a wimp, but only if the tears are flowing from both eyes. One single tear streaming down your cheek is the ultimate sign of sensitive masculinity. No woman alive can continue an argument when she sees how strong, yet sensitive you are. To start the water works flowing, I think of the 1996 World Series and how the Braves let the Yankees off the hook.

Once you learn to use the three methods listed above, you’ll be well on your way to avoiding the fate that befell poor Adam.

Although, the best part of my three-part attack is that it leaves plenty of room for making up. Which is, truth be told, one of the best reasons to argue in the first place.

She Says
By Jean Wharton

Men and women certainly have different ideas about the most effective tactic to win an argument. In my experience, once the man has the finish line in sight, if he’s winning, he may not actually care about the point of the argument.

Even though I don’t really understand what he’s talking about half the time (I just had to Google “Mendoza Line”), Keith has pointed out lots of different strategies one might employ to win an argument. Which brings me to an important point: One of the biggest reasons men and women start to or continue to fight is because they don’t understand each other. If he’s talking in baseball jargon and using sports metaphors while she’s crying, spilling her guts about how much she loves him, they are never going to get to the making up part, because they are not speaking the same language.

First step to having an effective argument, say NOTHING. That old expression, “We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we talk,” really proves true when you’re in a fight with a loved one. If you’re silent, simply listening as the other person gives his side of a situation, one of two things can happen. One, the chatter box yelling may tire of the fight, storm off and wait for you to reconcile. Or two, you listen long enough to find the weakness in the argument, and once you’ve heard his side, calmly collect your thoughts and pounce.

The cool, calm and collected “Listening Treatment” can, however, backfire if you are in a heated disagreement with a screaming, arm-waving, eye-rolling former head of the debate team. Sitting back and not saying a word will only infuriate the other person that much more. Sometimes this may be your goal—meaning you like to fight dirty, by pushing your squabble partner’s hot buttons. Using your knowledge of the other person’s pet peeves or weaknesses is a fast way to escalate the tiff. No gender is above using this tactic, although it most often occurs in fights between groups of high school girls. (See the following cinematic references: Mean Girls, Heathers, Never Been Kissed and She’s All That)

When fighting dirty, be sure you have an exit plan from the brink of disaster so that you don’t irrevocably damage the relationship. If you go for the jugular, make sure you know how to turn the situation back around in your favor when it goes sour. In a romantic relationship, making up is always half the fun. However, if you play dirty, gentlemen, don’t hold your breath, because a woman NEVER forgets. Maybe in the heat of the argument you spouted out something shocking and/or painful. But then the fight took a turn for the better, you kissed and made up—flowers, cards, candy, dinner, the whole nine. A few days later, very calmly she’s going to come to you and remind you, ever so casually of what you said, and she’d like a little explanation. Charm will only get you so far, so if you’re fighting dirty, don’t be foolish.

Argue smart. I’m sure your mom told you a thousand times when you were growing up, “Think before you speak.” I think my mom might have told me that just last week. Very little emphasis is placed on thinking in our culture. Answers come with a double-click on Google, and information is disseminated through so many different channels, that few of us collect our thoughts and organize our words in order to state clearly what our intellect or heart is feeling. Arguments can get carried away very quickly when people are careless with their statements. This is different from fighting dirty; this is neglectful, lazy cognition and apathetic editing of words and thoughts. Stop, think, be smart! You don’t have to yell or use profanity to get your point across in EVERY situation, although there are circumstances that call for both. If you take your time and speak clearly from an educated standpoint, you’ll be respected for your intellectual point of view. This approach is suitable for political and philosophical debates, disagreements with co-workers or superiors and fighting with family members.

I personally like to make use of at least two of the above tactics at one time. I find disagreements to actually be a very useful way to get to know someone and a productive way to explore an established relationship.

I resent Keith’s implication that women always use crying as a way out of a fight. True, some women see the waterworks as an obvious way to end the exchange and to start the reconciliation. I don’t believe that tears make women or men weak. Crying does for you what words often can not. Tears in the middle of an argument can mean many things, but they will surely change the pace and direction of the fight. There is a biological reason for crying during times of stress or sadness that needs to be examined, regardless of what gender is shedding the tears. Crying is a topic near and dear to me, being a proud, card-carrying member of the “Wear Your Heart On Your Sleeve” club. If you are a member, too, let the tears fall during the argument—don’t hold back.

There you have it… my simple tips for how best to survive an argument with anyone, but specifically a loved one. I say survive, because if the other person is important enough, you’ll surrender the need to be right for the sake of the relationship.

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