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Arguing - what's it good for? Arguments are rarely "won." When you think you won an argument, what did you win? The "loser" at least learned something, right? But what did you get? Debating practice, ego satisfaction, and diminished brain power.

Arguing Diminishes Brain Power?

At times things need to be debated, but most of the time, it just isn't productive. You may want to argue the point, but what do you get from a useless debate, and more importantly, what do you lose? I say you lose effective brain power.

There is at least one thing we can probably agree on. That is that a person listening to arguments can learn something from both sides. Now what about the participants? When your opponent makes a really good point, do you say, "Hey, you're right!" and learn something, or do you more often just look for a better argument?

You see, arguing too much gets you in the habit of looking for arguments more than for truth. You get deeper into a rut the more you defend a position, because any hint of opposing evidence is pushed away as a threat to your "victory" or correctness. Ii being in a rut and ignoring the truth doesn't sound like it's good for brain power, it's because it isn't.

Brain Power From Listening

Say the moon is closer, and if I say the sun is, one of us has to be right. On the other hand, if you say nurture is more important, and I say nature is, we're both sort of right. That's because the first argument has clearly defined terms. This isn't common in most arguments (and what's the point of arguing with someone who thinks the sun is closer?).

The second argument has to do with values, experiences, and poorly defined terms. We've seen different things in life, and we could spend a lifetime arguing the definition of "important." Alternately, I could shut up and listen. In this case my mind becomes more powerful with the addition of your ideas and knowledge. Listening is the better way.

How do you break the habit of arguing? Start by purposely asking for people's opinions, and listen without saying anything. Ask them to clarify, but don't offer one contrary idea. If you do this enough, you'll be surprised at how much you learn. You may also be surprised by how difficult this simple technique can be, but it works. Tell me I'm wrong, and I may just listen to what you say without arguing.

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