Stop Arguing, the War is Over

This is a still from  THE OATH , a movie about arguing at Thanksgiving

This is a still from THE OATH, a movie about arguing at Thanksgiving

A while ago I talked about how I don’t like the language we use around arguments. We talk a lot about winning, like they’re competitions.

I’m reading Alan Jacobs’ How to Think (which is so good I want to eat this book) and there’s a chapter where he talks about this! He references Metaphors We Live By, a book by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson that discusses “one of the most deeply embedded metaphors in our common discourse…” (Jacobs’ words).


You ever notice that? It's the only way we know how to talk about arguments.

Examples from Metaphors We Live By:


Your claims are indefensible.

He attacked every weak point in my argument.

His criticisms were right on target.

I demolished his argument.

I’ve never won an argument with him.

If you use that strategy, he’ll wipe you out.

He shot down all of my arguments.


It’s no good. You go to war with enemies, not your aunt at Thanksgiving. Everyone says war is hell. I get it. Hell exists in the Facebook comments.

We need to change the way we think about disagreements because the warfare metaphor is doing damage. War leaves no room for empathy. We don’t see a person on the other side of the “battlefield," we see a wrong idea/opinion that must be “defeated.”

From Alan Jacobs:


“When people cease to be people because they are, to us, merely representatives or mouthpieces of positions we want to eradicate, then we, in our zeal to win, have sacrificed empathy: we have declined the opportunity to understand other people’s desires, principles, fears. And that is a great price to pay for supposed 'victory' in debate."


It’s almost Thanksgiving, traditionally a time of war. Let us lay down our arms, pick up a leg (turkey, that is), look across the table at the human being we love so dear, and talk about issues without going into battle.

Even just me saying that felt exhausting. Look, I never said this was going to be easy. I’d much belittle people with sarcastic comments and dismiss them completely. I’ve done it before and it’s REALLY FUN TO DO. But I know it’s not right. I might not change completely overnight but it is something I need to work on.

Seriously, Alan Jacobs’ How to Think is an incredible book. Read my other post inspired by it, The Courage to be Wrong.

Another Exhausting Election

I voted today but you’d never know it because the moment I got my little sticker I ate it.

Politics are exhausting.

I know I could spend tonight watching the results roll in but that dos not sound fun at all. I did that in 2016 and that emotional rollercoaster was enough to last me a lifetime.

The only good thing that came from election coverage in 2016 was Colbert’s improvised closing monologue at the end of his live Showtime special that night.

This election season is about to end but you just know the 2020 presidential campaigns are going to start way too early. More arguing and Facebook anger is right around the corner.

Today’s a good day to watch Colbert’s monologue again.

If you want to avoid election coverage tonight but you still want something a little political, here’s what I recommend on Netflix:

  • West Wing (the TV show)

  • Lincoln (the Spielberg movie)

  • Unconstitutional (stand-up special from Collin Quinn all about the constitution and I love it so much)

If you are going to watch the results roll in tonight and you feel like you’ve got a lot of skin the game, remember that there are real life people on the other side of those issues. They have names and faces and fears. They think they’re doing the right thing too.

I love in that monologue how Colbert connects politics to gambling. We get wrapped up in winning.


“…worrying about winning and not about what the consequences of winning is.”


Yes, voting is a way for your voice to be heard but it’s not the only one. It IS the only way to really “win.” But I wrote a while ago why I want to stop winning arguments.

Be kind. Be cool. Don’t set anything on fire. We’re all still neighbors.

3 Reasons to Stop Winning Arguments

I have found that the best way for me to win an argument is if I play both parts.

I wish I could stop thinking of it is “winning” an argument, as if it’s a game. I mostly want to win because I don’t want to lose.

CONVINCE is a better word. I want to CONVINCE someone of something because it’s right and true and I know it will make them (or maybe even the world) better for believing the true thing. I should also be open to being convinced because if I believe something that’s wrong then of course I want to find out as soon as possible so I can replace it with the right thing.

What if this whole time I thought toothpaste was for your armpits and deodorant was for your teeth? That would be a miserable and embarrassing life. I’d hope someone could convince and correct my bad thinking.

Here are 3 reasons why I think it’s better to convince than to win:

1. There’s a lot more compassion is “convincing” than there is in “winning” the argument.

2. It puts disagreements in a better perspective. The more trivial arguments lose intensity when it stops being about winning. Why do I need to convince someone that The Dark Knight is not the greatest movie ever made? Is it that important? Instead I think I can convince them to watch more movies to see what else is out there.

(at this point I would like to make it clear that I enjoy The Dark Knight but I don’t think it’s the greatest movie ever)

3. No one ever thinks they lost an argument. Have you ever said to yourself “boy, I really lost that one.” NO! Of course not. You walk away mad. You play it over and over in your head. You talk about how dumb, mean, and ugly the other person was. But you never declare yourself the loser. So part of the satisfaction of winning is taken away when you’re the only one who thinks you’ve won.

I think this can really help my mindset when I walk into a disagreement. Now if I could only control how loud and angry I sound whenever I get passionate.

Even if I’m not mad, I always come across like the russians playing chess on The Simpsons.