The Reed and The Rock

I hate to argue.

That being said, if I have to, I want to win. So I care about strategy.

There are fundamentally two kinds of arguments: ones where you win by default, and ones where you lose by default. Or to put it another way, there are arguments where you have to convince someone of something in order to get the result you want, and arguments where someone else has to convince you of something in order to get what they want.

Or to put it another another way: who has the ball? As in, “take my ball and go home?”

If it’s your ball, then other people have to convince you. You can win just by not arguing, as long as you’re okay with the “and go home” part. You can be the rock – you don’t have to be flexible. You’re the person being sold to, so you don’t have to be flexible.

Meanwhile, there are arguments where you have everything to lose if the argument just doesn’t happen at all. You don’t have a ball, so you have to convince the kid who does that he wants to stay. You have to maneuver, be flexible, be the reed. You need tact and diplomacy.

Like many problems, you’re halfway to solving it if you can categorize it correctly. A surprising number of people can’t. They argue like a rock when they should argue like a reed, and vice versa.

Imagine someone’s selling a house and despite the best advice of their real estate agent, they’ve massively overpriced it. They’re convinced that their house is worth this inflated price tag, and they refuse to come down on price or do any property improvements. They’re arguing like the rock, as if it’s other people who need to adjust their expectations. “If someone wants this house, they’re just going to have to cough up the cash!”

But… no one does want the house, at that price. You need to be the reed. Change the price, make improvements to the property, or at the very least be super super charming as you hold open houses. You can’t win via stubbornness.

Meanwhile, I once knew someone who had quit his job because he got a much better offer and honestly didn’t like where he worked. His current employer made him a counter-offer to stay. It wasn’t enough, but this guy felt awkward even saying so – as if he owed it to them to accept the offer! He was arguing like the reed when he should have been the rock. He should have made up an offer that would genuinely have gotten him to stay, no matter how high it was, and told them “this or nothing.” He already had all the cards, why debate at all?

Identify your starting position, and whether you need to dig in or bend. If you get good at that, not only will you win more arguments, but the best benefit of all is that you’ll have a lot fewer to begin with.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s