When I was young, my parents used to argue... a lot. They got really good at it, because they put so much time and effort into practising. Screaming, shouting and hurling painful insults at each other was the order of the day. The more cutting the insult, the more points they scored off each other as their mutual self-esteem gradually wore lower and lower while they verbally pummelled each other into the ground.
Winning the argument was more important than anything else. They had the ability to drag a single argument out for days, weeks, months... even years! It was like being on the sidelines of one of those long and boring tennis matches that just goes on and on and on long past your bedtime, swinging from advantage server to advantage receiver depending on who had just fired the most powerful volley at their opponent. They may have started out at love all but gradually wore each other down bit by bit until they were too exhausted to play on and the match eventually got halted mid-play to be continued the next day.
Often my parents would keep me up late at night arguing from their bedroom beside mine. That made me feel really safe and valued as I drifted off into my peaceful sleep... only to awoken 30 seconds later by the next outburst. I attribute a lot of my inner security and natural self-confidence to the rock-solid grounding in love and acceptance that I learned on the sidelines of their vitriolic arguments.
My parents have mellowed a bit now that they're older, and there's a risk that the wisdom I learned from watching their relationship grow and blossom in so many passionate shouting matches could be lost if I don't pass it on. So to keep this lost art from dying, I've made this video with the main ideas I learned from Mum and Dad on How to Have a Really Good Argument:
To recap, the main steps are:
- Adopt a self-righteous position.
- Use “You” statements.
- Assume malicious intent.
- Change topic freely to your advantage.
- Collect material for use in future arguments. Freely use material from previous arguments.
- Never expose your own vulnerability or hurt feelings.
Resources to avoid:
- Why Don't People Listen by Hugh Mackay
- Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg