We argue

My honey and I adore each other. Our love runs deep and our love languages are in total sync.

Yet we argue. We argue a lot, like the proverbial cat and dog (pardon the metaphor; I know plenty of cats and dogs play nice). We argue almost daily, now for over three decades.

Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.

John Wooden

By the way, with my honey being a Leo in Western astrology, he is the cat. As a Taurus, I resemble more the dog. The animal stereotypes fit. And we are both stubborn. Ha!

Take this morning, for example. We argued over whether the US bans people who renounce their citizenship from ever returning to the States as well as to any other country that Americans can visit without visa. Say what, I say, absurd! (My honey has a few friends abroad with the proclivity for sharing crazy disinformation and propaganda, in my view. His radar for BS is not quite as honed as mine, again in my view.) Apparently there are people who want to make a nasty divisive deal over skier Eileen Gu deciding to ski for her mother’s country of origin, China, instead of her own country of birth, USA. I say it’s none of our business what she decides, but I was confident there are no such laws.

When my honey and I first met in 1985, I had just returned from my first long trip in China and was starting my stint as a China-trade consultant. He had left China in the early 60s, had returned for short visits a few times in the 70s, and had worked in the Canada-China Trade Council. From our first shared meal together, we became instant friends and, for the weeks I was in Toronto, daily tennis buddies… and we argued. First we argued about conditions in China, then, over the next weeks, years, and, yup, decades, the topics to argue about evolved to everything and anything else you can think of: food, culture, foreign policy, movies, politics… So, we’ve had an endless range of issues to debate on, almost every dang day. Sometimes the topic is serious; more often, like this morning, quite frivolous, with neither of us emotionally vested.

They could argue for hours on almost any subject; they usually agreed on broad conclusions, but disagreed on almost every detail.

Brenda Joyce (An Impossible Attraction)

The thing is, though, our arguments have never turned ugly. In fact, they are typically fascinating.

With our diverse backgrounds, we bring unique insights to any discussion. He was born and raised in China; I was born and raised in Europe. We each get our news and information from different sources, and we agree that every source has an agenda and perspective, no matter how esteemed and factual they are known to be.

By listening to each other and respecting each other, we are both enriched.

If you disagree with me about a position I have taken, or what I’ve done, tell me, argue with me, debate. Sometimes, right and good are not that clear; at other times, it is only deliberate and respectful debate that leads us to understand what road we should take.

Janet Reno

So back to this morning’s argument, my honey got online and searched American laws on renouncing citizenship. He found out for himself that the source of his information was BS.

This time he learned his information was wrong. Other times, it’s me who digs into the topic we railed about only to find I need to adjust my opinion to fit the facts.

I’ve come to realize that this constant testing of my views over the years has increased my resilience to being wrong. Being wrong doesn’t make me bad or stupid.

It’s not only in the confines of our safe loving relationship that I can readily admit to having blundered when faced with convincing evidence. I believe I’m open to listening both with friends and with colleagues at work, too. My ability to do that my boil down to my general attitude towards life and being a committed lifelong learner.

Now I know we are all different, yet I still scratch my head that so many people hold on to untenable positions long after they’ve been disproved by available facts. For instance, that there was widespread hesitation to vaccinate for covid-19 in the early stages of the pandemic seemed reasonable to me (even as I sided with the prevailing science). But to make this medical/public health issue a political one and still hold on to that anti-vax view after the solid available evidence that the contagion is killing substantially more unvaccinated people than vaccinated ones boggles my mind.

And yes, I also know, facts alone don’t change people’s mind.

The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him.

Leo Tolstoy

I think the bigger barrier to admitting even to oneself that a dearly held opinion is wrong is our ego or self-image. We tend to be afraid of making or admitting mistakes because we fear looking weak, silly, stupid, or vulnerable. To protect our (fragile) ego, which wants to think we’re smart, rather than acknowledging a slip-up or the need to change our mind, we seek confirming opinions and double down when faced with contrary evidence. How senseless is that? Yet it’s human. As the Chinese put it, we must save face.

How about we start believing that smart people can be wrong and still be smart? That changing one’s mind when proven wrong IS smart?

Let’s remember that this is what science is meant to do: state hypotheses and then test to confirm or prove wrong. Being wrong is not always wrong—it can teach us something.

The experts say another reason for holding on to opinions (or even worldviews) not supported by evidence is our need to belong. So, when the “in crowd” collectively holds a wrong view, people will stick to it rather than think independently and risk being ostracized or losing their social network. I can understand that, even when it makes me feel sad when the false views harm them or the wider community.

My approach is to choose my opinion encounters mindfully. I hear and read a lot that I think is nonsense (especially on social media, omg). I don’t bother to throw my opinions out into the void… the public sphere of social media—what’s the dang use of that? You think anyone is listening? Besides, it would just give air to bad ideas!

While I enjoy discussing, debating, and yes, even arguing, before I engage, I ask myself what my intention and aims are. Being kind is more important than being right.

Always remember that to argue, and win, is to break down the reality of the person you are arguing against. It is painful to lose your reality, so be kind, even if you are right.

Haruki Murakami

Most of the time, I don’t need to tell people they are wrong. It’s not the best way to win hearts and minds.

Instead, I happily share good ideas and exchange opinions in my own space, with my honey, or when invited. My purpose is to inform and learn.

I like people with their own opinions, and I like people who argue with me. It’s very exhausting to be in a room full of people who just nod and smile. 

Shonda Rhimes

Do you like to argue or debate? How do you handle differences in opinion? What can you add to my musings?

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10 comments

  • My next potential relationship will be with someone who can have deep intellectual discussions with me without feeling personally attacked, nor be disturbed when/if I do not take their side. Listening, acknowledging, pushing, prodding, respecting and extending thinking is something I had missed and now am finding again with a number of people in my life. It is good for my brain and my health. It is a part of happiness.

    • Knowing someone is seeing and hearing you, especially when there is disagreement, without dismissal is precious. I agree with you, Jenniekins, it’s a key factor in our happiness. 🌸💜🌸

  • Wonderful post Francisca. To argue creates new energies that will make a difference to ‘positions’ no matter the outcome. So I love to debate too. The movement brings about a a win win situation for all.

    • Pleasing perspective, Alison–“creates new energies’… yes! I’ve thought our verbal sparring adds another kind of spice to our relationship, but just the same, it does create new energies. 🌸🙏🌸

  • Hi Francisa,

    This is a very timely post as families and communities are very divided lately. I really like the quote you picked, “Always remember that to argue, and win, is to break down the reality of the person you are arguing against. It is painful to lose your reality, so be kind, even if you are right.” by Haruki Murakami. This is if ever you even got to the level of convincing. These days, it seems that each party has barricaded themselves in their own fortresses. Possibly, me included. But like you, we can all always try to see and understand the other sides. Sending you healing wishes! And Happy Valentines! ❤️

    Gayle

    • I agree with you, Gayle. People are divided because they get entrenched in their opinions, not allowing that speck of doubt needed to bring in more information. When I do decide to engage, being kind to me means starting by looking for common ground (and there is always common ground). From there, listening first, then asking gentle (non-attacking) questions. And one person at a time. Thanks for your continued care and love. 🌸💜🌸

  • per Webster
    argument = a: the act or process of arguing, reasoning, or discussing/ ARGUMENTATION; b: a coherent series of reasons, statements, or facts intended to support or establish a point of view/a defense attorney’s closing argument; c: an angry quarrel or disagreement/having an argument over/about money
    discussion = a: : consideration of a question in open and usually informal debate/a heated political discussion; b : a formal treatment of a topic in speech or writing/A discussion on the topic is included in the first chapter.
    So the two are nearly synonymous, but in general I think of “argument” as being contentious but discussion as being more intellectual and less contentious. So, for me, “heated discussion” may be or border on an argument.

    • Yes, that’s right, Jill. 🌸🙏🌸 With my legal background, I’m aware the word “argument” can mean many things. And so many near synonyms, yet each commonly understood just slightly different! Here I’m using “argue” in the more generally used sense of “heated or passionate discussion”–certainly with more emotion than a simple academic exchange or formal debate. Fortunately for us, that may involve raised voices and some low-level anger but does *not* include ad hominems or other abusive/bully language. After so many decades, we’ve come to the point where we can argue loudly while holding hands on a walk and/or end with a hug and kiss. 🙂

  • Ah, yes. A very thoughtful post, and I will be musing about this all day.

By Francisca

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