“You can be so right that you’re wrong.” – Toph
Have you ever heard the expression, “win the battle but lose the war?” This expression can apply to much more than military campaigns. Everyday, people engage in small skirmishes during conversations with others. They try to win the moment and end up losing the day.
As a parent, I watch this play out at the dinner table on a nightly basis. Siblings turning family banter into a game of verbal chess, taking turns trying to knock each other’s pieces off the board. The conversation will escalate until someone goes nuclear – usually me.
On one level, it’s understandable: we all want to look smart. We want to be the smartest person in the room, admired for our wit, depth of knowledge or command of the facts. So we “conversationally fact check people,” engaging in verbal arm wrestling. We go all in to do battle on a topic that has no impact on us personally other than trying to feel better about ourselves because we won the argument. It’s in these very moments that “you can be so right that you are wrong.”
I write from experience. You might say that I am an expert on this topic. Many reading these words have worn these very same shoes. What those of us who have traveled down this road can tell you is this: learn how to use your verbal tools to build people up.
If you want to feel better about yourself, start by feeling better about other people. You do by taking the spotlight off yourself and shining it on other people. Here are a couple of tips on how to really “win the battle” so that everyone can win the war:
- Learn to make room for people in the conversation – stop the monologue
- You don’t have to challenge people of the veracity of everything they say – it’s just a conversation, not a presidential debate
- Acknowledge what people are saying with your words – it shows you are listening and demonstrates that you care
- Affirm rather than confront – unless it’s a life threatening situation or someone is trying to assert that the Vikings are better than the Packers – just offer affirmation (How hard is it to say “That’s cool,” or “That’s interesting”?)
Tonight at dinner, exercise restraint. Try showing interest in what others are saying. Ask how they are doing and listen rather than biding your time, waiting for your turn to talk. Look for ways to say “yes, and…” Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Play the long game.
I once heard a wise person say, “life belongs to the encouragers.” We can encourage people in the smallest moments by choosing to lay down our arms and lift them up. When we learn to take the spotlight off ourselves, we become the people we long to be – respected, admired and loved. The light has power, but the person guiding the light is powerful.
And remember, “Your candle loses nothing when it lights another.” – James Keller
Love you guys