Convincing Others Is A Waste Of Time
Yet People Still Try
“Convincing yourself doesn’t win an argument.” — Robert Half
You run into them every once in a while. That person who insists on convincing you that their way of seeing the world is somehow superior.
Why do the do that? Well, one can only speculate. It could be anything from them having a need to “be right”, to not being able to read social cues, to actual brain damage.
While we could try to figure out what the underlying reasons might be, ultimately there’s only one person whose actions we have any control over, and that is our own.
If the other person keeps trying to prove a point we aren’t interested in, or that we think/know is blatantly false, it’s up to us to very clearly say:
“Thank you, but I don’t agree with that view/I don’t want to engage in this discussion any more/I’m leaving now.”
Then our actions have to match that, we have to walk away from it.
It might be an even bigger waste of time trying to understand why the person keeps acting this way instead of focusing on activities we’d much rather be doing.
If you’re genuinely interested in this question then I’m sure there has been research done into the phenomena, or you could start your own investigation.
The point is this: Is it a mild annoyance you don’t know how to handle? Or does it really matter to you?
If it’s the former then the responsibility is on you to make things unambiguously clear that you have no interest in listening to these people.
If it’s the latter then asking more questions and getting more specific as you go along is key. Right now we’re at the general level of “Why?” and while it’s a good place to start we can get better.
If you want to improve your questions you want to look at the difference between qualitative data and quantitative data. They overlap pretty well with open-ended and close-ended questions.
Close-ended questions often include words like: is, are, does, will, should, could, would, might, did, can, etc. Basically things that can be answered with binary yes/no answers. These questions give us quantitative data.
- Everything OK at work?
Open-ended questions on the other hand often include words like: what, how, why, and tell me about. These can give us more qualitative data. That is to say, the underlying reasons and emotions that drive the quantitative data.
- Tell me about your day.
- The morning was a bit busy, but it was alright. Everything got done and the afternoon was relaxing.
You see? It was essentially the same question.
Unless the other person volunteers information for the close-ended question it can be answered by a simple Yes or No.
Meanwhile the open-ended questions are more prone to make the other person reflect on their experiences and thoughts rather than saying Yes or No. However, if the person doesn’t want to talk they can still shut it down. That way you don’t have to do much guessing about whether or not they want to explore the issue.
The further you go down the rabbit hole, the better questions you’ll have to ask in order to solve the puzzle.
Just make sure it’s what you want to spend your time on.