So the Facebook algorithm threw this video up at me the other day: Vegans Get Angry.
I don’t know if it’s worth clicking through. Basically, two blokes are fishing in a park somewhere. They’ve just caught a fish and it’s flopping about on the ground.
At that point, a young man and his kids show up to make the case that they’re being cruel to fish, and veganism is the life choice they should be pursuing.
And then its all just a bit awkward and weird for everyone. It feels like it could come to fisty-cuffs, but in a moment that makes me feel good about where the modern world is at, as different as these folks seem to be, it doesn’t come to physical violence.
Anyway, I’m watching this and I’m thinking, what is the vegan trying to do here?
I think there are two legitimate reasons to have an argument.
The first is because you actually want to convince someone of something. You want someone to adjust their views and behaviours more to your liking.
The other reason to have an argument is that arguments are fun. Or it allows you to blow off steam, or you enjoy a bit of argumentative duelling, whatever.
The point is, it’s entirely for your benefit. And that’s ok. Everyone needs a hobby.
And so I’m listening to the vegan fellah having a spiel and I’m feeling a bit sorry for him. Like, what are you trying to do here?
Like a lot of people, it sounds like he thinks he’s doing one, but he’s actually doing two.
That is, he thinks he’s being convincing, but he’s actually blowing off steam.
You see people make this mistake all the time. And it's easy for it to happen. Often people start off genuinely trying to shift someone’s perspective, but then their emotions get going and they need emotional release.
And at that point, they start arguing from agenda two. It becomes about making themselves feel good – about releasing the tension they’re feeling or proving their superiority (to themselves.)
And then they’re genuinely surprised that people aren’t convinced by the obvious brilliance of their arguments.
And again, it’s all fine if you’re just looking to have an argument for the fun of it. I’ve done it. It can be fun – test your intellect and your argumentative chops in the cut and thrust of battle.
But if you are genuinely in the game of persuasion – if you need to convince people, and especially people who have set themselves in opposition to you, you need to be really clear about when you are in agenda one or two.
It takes serious control.
And there’s another rule of negotiation I have: as soon as you’re in an argument, you’ve lost.
Once you’ve got someone dug into their trenches, it takes an awful lot of work to get them out again. It’s almost impossible.
It’s like our vegan mate. His opening gambit is attack. So, of course, the two fishermen go into defensive mode.
At that point they are so far from embracing the vegan lifestyle there just isn’t any point trying to argue with them anymore.
You know, unless you’re just doing it for shits and giggles.
Which is fine. Whatever turns you on.
But convincing people of something, let alone actually changing their opinion, is actually one of the most difficult things you can do. There’s an art and a science to it.
And that’s why you’re reading this blog.