How Fruitless Debates Inflame My Anxiety
This is part of my Blog Post Series: How To Thrive As An Adult
Source: Duty Calls
I live in a place where my beliefs differ from the dominant culture and religion. Consequently, there’s no shortage of people to debate and argue with. And in years past, I argued with people a lot. My mission was to point out the flawed thinking and inconsistent beliefs with family members, co-workers, and random folks on public transit. (You may be thinking, Wow, Stewie was an ass!, and you’d be correct.)
My arguments’ goals were always twofold: get my point across and convince the other person of my perspective. Unfortunately, I rarely convinced anyone of my view, and I had mixed success, even getting my point across. But I did successfully add marbles to my anxiety jar each day.
In recent years I’ve learned five valuable lessons:
1. There’s no point in debating things we cannot prove or test. We can definitively determine the price of a loaf of bread at Walmart, but unanswerable questions abound: Which religion, if any, is ‘correct’? Is there a life after death? Was Grandma Shuree reunited with her pets, thousands of frog-related knick-knacks, and hundreds of John Wayne and Jean-Claude Van Damme VHS tapes? Or is everything in heaven on LaserDisc? Or Blu-ray? I have my opinion: heaven, if it exists, has recently gone 100% digital! But there’s no point in arguing about what we can’t prove, and adding marbles to our jar when folks inevitably disagree.
2. Argument feeds our ego. We want to be right. We need to be right. We need to win. Arguing is a contest of domination wherein we assert our will and demand others conform. At that moment, we are like a mafia boss, who expects others to comply with their version of reality. This behavior alienates people around us and makes them less likely to cooperate on essential projects. In many cases, they avoid us altogether. And marbles fall into our jar as relationships deteriorate, and we are left to complete tasks alone.
3. Arguing is a favorite tactic employed by the Time Wasters Lobby and distracts us from important work. We divert our attention with dumb debates like, Is a hotdog, in a bun, a sandwich? (No.) and Is Home Alone (1990) a Christmas movie? (Yes.) As a consequence, we put off critical tasks, feel stress, and our jar fills with marbles.
4. Changing peoples’ perceptions and altering their worldview is not our job. It’s not our responsibility. We are not betraying our own core beliefs and values when we choose not to proselytize our perspectives and views. If someone asks why you believe that space aliens, resembling Elvis Presley, created the Egyptian pyramids, then, by all means, explain away. But please don’t get on your soapbox any time someone utters the words space, alien, pyramid, triangle, Elvis, or technology.
5. People like us much more when we search for common ground and shared beliefs. They are far more likely to cooperate and show solidarity, which subtracts marbles from our jar.
These days, I spend far less time debating with other people. I still disagree, in many ways, with the dominant culture. I still look for opportunities to share my perspective with others. But I also seek to find common ground and build bridges with the people around me.
As a consequence, I feel far less anxiety than I used to.
Be well, my friend.