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How to be wrong

Today marks Day 8 in my stand-off with my friend W. We were engaged in a debate which stretched over two days; a debate which veered into argument territory. It was a debate held over Whatsapp because W lives in Sydney, so we can’t duke it out in person.

It was an argument over something stupid, as these things always tend to be. Exercise regimens and burning fat. Whether you can target muscle groups when exercising. Whether burning fat and developing muscle go hand in hand. I said they do, because if you’ve got a pocket of fat obscuring the muscle you’ve built up, it may as well not be there because you ain’t gonna see it. He disagreed about the hand in hand thing and made some analogy about the operations of the kidney and the liver and whatever.

Our conversation degenerated from there. He claimed that he was correct in what he was saying and that I should respond to him ‘less negatively’. He criticised the formulation of my arguments and said that if I were to debate him then I should offer ‘something more logical’. And that’s when I stopped talking to him.

I know that all this silliness will have to end before Sunday. It’s his birthday then. In spite of how frustrated he has been making me, how condescending I feel he has been, I know it’s not worth throwing away our friendship over. I will break the silence, message and call a truce.

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The frustration that exists between us is mutual. I think that he’s arrogant for entering our discussions with the absolute conviction that he is right and that I’m the one who should politely question his beliefs. He thinks that I argue for the sake of it.

Neither of us will concede ground over either point, but I don’t think they’re deal breakers.

To his point, I can understand why he might think what he does about me. I am argumentative, but I don’t believe that I argue out of the desire to pick a fight or to be difficult. I argue because I hold a particular belief that, if challenged, I will defend. But it’s not a duel to the death.

I apply a similar philosophy when I enter into debates, arguments, what have you. I will hold fast to my view, but acknowledge the possibility that I may be persuaded to change my view over the course of a discussion. You will have to fight for it, however.

After an incident today with someone IRL, I got to thinking about why I can be so fucking stubborn over defending something I believe in – even while being open to being convinced otherwise.

This bout of introspection came about while talking out today’s incident with another friend, S. I explained the situation in what I thought at first were neutral terms; although as I proceeded, I realised I was choosing my words carefully to make myself look better. I gave the rationale behind my actions, described the stakes as I saw them. What the outcome might have been had I acted differently. Whenever S countered aspects of what I was saying, I had a counter-point at the ready.

It was a kind of cognitive behavioural therapy, and it helped me to see that I should have made a different decision, even if it resulted in a less favourable external outcome than what might now happen having taken the course that I did. That’s in my humble opinion, of course.

I held on to the belief that I was right for a relatively long time though. When my actions were challenged earlier, unexpectedly, a confrontation which comprised the incident I referred to above, I reflexively defended myself, a coherent string of words exiting my mouth. I calmly stood my ground, ceding none of it, and the confrontation ended unsatisfactorily.

My reaction was no doubt an autopilot response. I had no time to carefully consider my actions or to reflect on whether I was in the wrong. But a part of me knows that the truth runs deeper than that.

If this had been just an isolated incident, it wouldn’t have bothered me so much. That there are now two trouble spots in my life occupying the same time continuum, with roots in the same pot… Well. That gave me pause. Hell, maybe I’m not so open-minded after all.

Argumentative

Call it melodramatic if you want to. I call it a diagnosis. And yes – I will debate you on that.

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As is often the case, it’s not so much what you do but what you do next that’s important. And that next step is not only about doing what is right; sometimes you get to a point where being right no longer matters. But you know what? Sometimes you are just wrong.

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