For Argument's Sake
I get into a lot of arguments. Thankfully, they are mostly with myself. And when they are with other people, they are usually about insignificant shit. Like trying to convince someone who’s really into cinema that The Perfect Storm is a filmic masterpiece. It is. Mark Wahlberg gives the performance of a lifetime on that boat.
Or, that mathematically I can prove The Who were a better band than The Beatles. Most people don’t properly account for the John Entwistle factor.
I’ve argued that the 1985 Chicago Bears are the greatest football team of all time. Not because of their record but rather, because of their music.
I’ve gone toe to toe with grown men over the merits of single stage vs two-stage snowblowers.
The false promise of high-octane gas.
And the pros and cons of turning prisons into childcare centers, where parents can drop off their kids anytime, free of charge. Before you judge, let me assure you that the prisoners assigned to care for your children, free of charge, will be highly supervised, non-violent offenders. It’s a bold concept. I’ll be the first to admit it still has a few kinks to be worked out.
Arguments are good. As long as they’re not with your wife. Or your husband. Or your whatever person who is in charge of loving you. I received a very wise piece of advice from a good friend when I got married.
He said, “Don’t try to win.”
That was damn good advice. More than damn good advice. That was legit, sage wisdom. That’s the kind of tip you get from a really smart person who’s figured out that love is like anything else. It has a big picture aspect and it has the day-to-day component. Trying to win an argument with the person who loves you might benefit you in your day-to-day role as a person who is both deserving of love and at the moment clearly right about something. However, it will seldom bode well for you in terms of the bigger picture.
Great advice. Had I followed it, perhaps my first marriage would have gone differently. Nevertheless, it was wise. And now I give it to you. I know you’ll do a better job with it than I did.
Don’t argue with your boss either. It doesn’t pay-off. They don’t respect you as an independent thinker. They just get sick of you always being "difficult" and eventually you’re no longer a good fit.
Be a suck-up. Be a yes man. A yes lady. A yes non-binary person. Whatever. It doesn’t mean you can’t still stir the shit. That’s what the other people in your organization who have the same boss as you are for. They are your toilet. That’s where the shit is. Get in there and stir it up all you want.
But the boss is different. The boss pays you money. In return, they expect something more out of the exchange than merely your best efforts. They expect a respectable amount of head nodding. That’s what they’re really paying you for. Head nodding is very important and very good for your career.
Whenever I’m listening to someone speak, who pays me, I try to do a lot of head nodding. It’s the universal sign of submission. Bosses recognize it and love it. It tells them, “I’m here to play ball. Maybe not with all those other assholes you pay, but with you, I got no beef.”
The wise boss, will recognize the submission immediately and take note. You’re brown-nosing will put you on the fast track to bigger and better things. Even if every other single person in the office hates your ass kissing guts, don’t sweat it. They’ll report to you soon.
Another person you should never argue with is someone who is dying on a battlefield. When you’re holding your best buddy in your arms as he’s bleeding out in a rice paddy and hands you the picture of his girl back home and with his last dying breath asks you to take it to her and tell her he loved her.
You don’t say, “Hey man, I’m probably gonna have a lot going on.” You tell that soldier to consider it done. And then later on, when you're back at the barracks and washing all of his blood off you, is when you decide whether or not honoring his last dying wish is worth the airfare.
I got into a really bad argument with a rabbi one time. This was a really stupid thing to do. Don’t argue with a rabbi. Or a priest. Or an imam. Or even one of those guys who holds the rattle snakes while they speak in tongues.
Don’t argue with any of those people. My life really went into the crapper after I got into an argument with that rabbi. It was a slow dissent that I didn’t even really notice until I suddenly found myself at the southern-most tip of a world of shit.
It was years later, but I knew I needed to make it right with that rabbi. I called him up and we met at a Starbucks. I told him I was really sorry and that I was in a bad place when we had our argument and made some bad decisions. I told him I regretted it and that I was trying to rectify some of the unfortunate mistakes I had made during that time. He accepted my apology and shortly after things started moving in a better direction for me. That’s rabbi power.
Don’t ever argue with anyone at a casino. Especially if you’re that big stupid cowboy guy in the movie, Casino. Robert DeNiro will have his goons drag you out of there and open the front door with your fucking head. Then, Joe Pesci will beat you over the same fucking head with a telephone. You are going to have a very sore fucking head if you start arguing with people at a casino. Don’t do it. It’s bad form.
There are three possible outcomes to an argument. You can win an argument. You can lose an argument. Or you can settle an argument. Winning and losing are pretty easy concepts. You’re either right or you’re somehow able to convince the other person that they’re wrong. Otherwise, you lose.
Settling an argument is different. It has a bit more nuance to it.
There are two ways to settle an argument. One is bullshit. The other isn’t.
The bullshit way to settle an argument is when one person says, “Let’s just agree to disagree.” That is the most fucked up, oxymoron, emotionally dishonest turd of a phrase ever invented. You can’t agree to disagree. You can’t just say that you’re simply going to be fine with the other person being wrong. Society depends on a fragile balance of implied but necessary cultural behaviors that guarantee the structural integrity upon which are current human arrangement exists. Once you start to go soft on fundamental things like whether or not someone is being a complete moron, you poison the well from which we all must drink. Agreeing to disagree is dangerous for everyone.
The other way to settle an argument is to bring in an independent third-party. This is really the only way to properly “settle” an argument. Usually it’s a woman named Kathy or a guy named Dave. It’s important that the third-party be in the middle of doing something completely unrelated to the argument. That way you can say, “Kathy/Dave, do you have a sec? We need you to settle an argument.”
Now, Kathy/Dave can be anyone. Kathy/Dave could be the person who checks you out at the grocery store. Kathy/Dave could be your accountant. Kathy/Dave could be the Queen/King of England. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that even if Kathy/Dave is in the middle of tense negotiations between neighboring countries, they must stop what they’re doing to settle your argument.
It’s an implied contract we all sign. It’s like jury duty. You can’t get out of it. You must stop and settle the argument when someone asks you to be an independent third-party. I believe in some states it’s legitimately illegal not to.
Once the argument has been presented to the independent third-party that person is automatically appointed the expert on the subject and now has the power to declare a winner. This is also implied, assuming that the two arguing parties agreed on who to take their argument to. An appeal may be made if this is later revealed to have not been the case.
However, assuming all parties involved followed the proper protocol, at this point the argument may be settled. When I lose arguments this way, it’s not good. It usually makes me get into an argument with the independent third-party and then the whole, unpleasant process starts over again.
Unless, of course, you ask your boss to settle the argument. Whatever they say, you’ll have to accept. Because as previously mentioned—in addition to your rabbi or imam, anyone at a casino, a person dying on a battlefield or whoever loves you—you should never, ever argue with your boss.
End of story.