3 ways of letting them win (the battle, not the war)

Executive summary: look smart by letting them win

I once wrote a story about how you can get more out of trying to get as wet as possible in the rain, rather than futilely try to stay dry.

In the same vein, I recommend you actively search for arguments you can lose (and execute on those), in order to make friends and influence people long term, rather than just try to win the occasional ad hoc party conversation to feel good in the moment.

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Talking point


Length: very short

Topic: A few simple tips for handling arguments, and winning friends and influencing people, at, e.g., parties.

How?: Simply let them win whatever discussion or argument you’re having. They winning is not the same as you losing. The truth is still what it is.

Or are you too hot-headed and stupid for that?

angry kitten


Admit you are wrong

Do it swiftly and sincerely – with a smile

Actually, do it even if you aren’t sure you’re wrong, or if it’s kind of a close call.

If you happen to be unequivocally right, the truth will reveal itself sooner or later. But you will never get the chance to correct the know-it-all image you projected if you couldn’t admit your mistake.

If you want to be strategic about it, here is level 2:


Let yourself be won over 

There is nothing the other part in a conversation wants more than to persuade you with his or her clever arguments and rhetoric.

Let it happen.

If they are wrong, the worst thing that could happen is you look a little thick in their eyes – but then again, who was the thicker one?

argument

Don’t be this guy

In addition, it’s often a worthwhile mental exercise to truly try to understand the other side of a discussion. You can’t do that if you’re busy shouting your own exaggerated arguments.

If they are right, you learned something, and looked smart enough to appreciate their sound logic. In any case, they’ll like you. By the way, you’re much more likely to be seen as intelligent and pleasant, if you let yourself be ‘educated’ by the other than if you stubbornly and grumpily stick to your view. I mean, what was your purpose of talking to them in the first place?

First become friends and win their confidence. Then, after many weeks, it’s time to spread truths and maybe practice some mansplaining.


Just let it go

(leave them alone)

Unless you are a professional politician, there are almost never any good reasons for pursuing a sensitive argument.

In particular not in a discussion with the friend of a friend at the friend’s house party. Nobody benefits from a heated, inebriated and useless WWI style trench warfare. Leave it, change the subject. If needed, clearly state that you won’t talk politics, taxes, weight lifting, nutrition/dieting, or whatever the sensitive subject happens to be. Remember to do it with a smile.

ahimsa

I hold certain principles very dearly, not least Ahimsa, the practice of non-violence, and my belief that every man is an island. I am about as open to discussion in these cases as I am regarding the existence of “God”, and if I can help it I save that for a sober and quiet talk with a close friend.

Anyway, I have no interest in trying to win over a tax lover, career politician, lefty-commie, ignorant kid or the like that can’t see the asymmetry of their beliefs, when we can simply get drunk together, talk about the accelerating technological progress, David Simpson’s new book Dawn Of The Singularity, or the unbearable shortness of the skirts at the party.

unbearable

Summary: not two-faced

No, there is nothing insincere or fork-tongued about this.

Know your purpose. Choose your battles.

If you really want to get to the philosophical bottom of an argument, make sure to pick the right time, venue and person for it. An acquaintance at a dinner party, or worse yet, a stranger at a club, is not a fitting opportunity.

Bonus: begin your answers with acknowledging their points: “You are right. I agree that…“, before saying anything remotely contrary to their position.


If you’re interested in a deep dive of friend winning tactics, check out my summary of Dale Carnegie’s iconic book here.

And here are many more of my book and podcast reviews.

If you liked any of the above and want more, make sure to stay up to date on my writings by signing up for my free newsletter here.

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14 Comments

  1. Something I learned a long time ago — you can ruin a lot of relationships by having to be right all the time. The technique of finding something to agree with is explained in detail in “The Feeling Good Handbook” by Dr. David Burns. It is a self-help psychology book that is mostly off topic, but he has a chapter on communication skills that is life changing. Sub chapter titles are things like “how to deal with someone who is screaming at you”. As you read this, you are amazed at how simple it is to calm down highly emotional and irrational people, and eventually win your side.

    Politics in America has become so dishonest and so virulent, I usually refuse to discuss it. I say, let’s not bore each other… it’s all just lies anyway — and the topic is dropped. It’s like a religion, and when has anyone ever changed a religious opinion?

  2. I can see from this post that u are from sweden.

    where its so much about not get in a discussion or get a conflict, stay away from conflict.
    The Political correct way.

    Thats one of the reasons your country are burning.
    Your refugee (migrants better word for them)
    skyrocketing crime rates, and sickening rape levels (i feel sad for your blonde hot woman),
    no go zones, and falling pisa levels (because immigrants do poorley in school at average), because u must not debate that there is a problem with the immigrants, and the thought that swedes are better than immigrants from third world countrys, is the most racist, and bad thing u can say.

    And thats the problem when u dont defend, and stand up for your values, because u dont want a conflict, because its more inportant to get the other people to like you.

    That some of the reasons your country is burning, i can just see it in the debate, from denmark and sweden, there we are far superior to sweden.

    I mean that your values, and what u stand for should, be set higher than, to not get in a conflict, and get the other person to like you.

    • Well, Sweden isn’t really burning, no matter how much the media and the far right try to portray it that way.

      • Then its only because u are not looking. (but i know the media dont alow u swedes to see the problems, so yeah its hard to see, when u dont get exposed to it)
        if it dident get reportet, it dident happend.

        So your think the media is portraying that there is a bigger problem that it is, i dont buy that, what u see is the surface of the iceberg, there is so many problems, so they have to report some (so the conclusion is, they report to many problems).

        But from the “more free denmark”, i can observe some of the progress in sweden.

        Im happy that we have sweden the guinea pig, to see what will hapend, before we take the same measures as sweden,
        because some of our retarded left policians see sweden as a model of excelence.

        “Burning was a metaphor”.

        I dont see any moral in giving the Iligal immigrants, better treatment, than the week in your country.

        But it might just be me, that dont want to pay for people that come from the third world, that i not even can expect to embrace my culture, (but yeah i forgot, sweden dont have any culture, as your politician so nicely said it)

        But thats the indoctrinated swedish mindset, u have been bombarded with, that immigrants cant make problems, and if they do, it is because u opress them (so give them more stuff, let them have there opressive religion).
        Its realig good logic

        What about some of the immigrants are just shitty people, any sane person asked that simpel question ?

  3. Robert Anton Wilson used to talk about how we are all in our “reality-tunnel” (and that only very highly advanced beings manage to become “metaprogrammers” who can change reality-tunnels at will).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality_tunnel

    Even your Ahimsa and crusoenism are reality-tunnels, no doubt influenced by your particular neuro-makeup (Asperger’s, and probably a non-standard amygdala which craves an atypical amount of individuality).

    Of course, on a practical level, one has to survive on this Earth, and I’d much rather share a foxhole with Micke Syding than some weirdo who believes we should assimilate with the Borg.

    • Deep, really deep.

      How typical of you Alex :D

      Anyway, I feel weirdly flattered by the comment, albeit without fully comprehending it…

  4. This is bang on. My business partner is a very highly evolved woman who’s been teaching me that having zero expectations of others (you consciously forgo trying to perfect *anybody else* by expecting nothing of them whatsoever) has had a remarkable side-effect: you can’t help but live in the moment. There’s nothing else to perfect, because the moment (now) is inherently perfect as it is. It’s been quite a release, learning (I’m a total beginner at this) to expect nothing of anyone else…least of all an unproductive argument. Thanks.

    • Great contribution to this thread Brendan. I hadn’t quite thought of it that way but it does make perfect sense to me.

  5. Here is a truth bomb:

    Who cares.

    Do you really need the validation of a random stranger to know that you are right and they are not?

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