“The beautiful and good person neither fights with anyone nor, as much as they are able, permits others to fight… this is the meaning of getting an education — learning what is your own affair and what is not. If a person carries themselves so, where is there any room for fighting?”EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 4.5.1; 7b-8a
Smart people don’t get in fights. They don’t even get into arguments. Another way to put it is how author Ryan Holiday labeled today’s entry in his book, The Daily Stoic: “The Truly Educated Aren’t Quarrelsome.”
Why aren’t they?
Because the educated person has learned that it’s counterproductive to one’s own goals to engage in arguments.
As Holiday points out, Socrates drove a lot of people to be upset (with him), but he didn’t get upset himself. The “truly educated” have realized the benefits of not quarreling.
They’ve realized that it’s more important to listen than to be heard. That it’s not necessary to argue, and certainly neither necessary nor important to win. You could find better uses of your energy than wasting it in this manner. “Just think of what you could accomplish,” says Holiday, “and how much better you would feel — if you could conquer the need to fight and win every tiny little thing.”
You can’t learn while you’re talking
It’s nearly impossible to listen when you’re too busy ramming your ideas down someone’s throat. That’s a shame, because listening is how we’re exposed to new ideas, and how we expand our horizons and evolve our thinking. Constantly spouting off our own thoughts leaves no silence for listening and receiving the wisdom of others. Listening gives that personal growth a chance, gives that opportunity for learning. And it does wonders for your personal relationships too!
Arguing online is especially pointless
With the growth of the Internet and social media, especially in the last few years, it’s become clear that everybody has a freaking opinion. What’s more, we seem to have reached a point where we feel it’s our duty to “drop that knowledge bomb” on whatever hapless stranger we just met online, and to do so in a tone that would generally be considered boorish and obnoxious if we did it in person.
We all have opinions, and somehow they’re all better than what the experts say. “I don’t care what some [insert professional expert] thinks they know, I have common sense, and I’m sure the truth is [this]!” We hide behind the cloak of relative anonymity that the Internet affords us, and that gives us the bravery to be outright silly with how absolutely positive we are that we’re 100% correct.
Of course, once somebody states their anecdotal opinion as absolute fact, then some of us feel obliged to jump in and play the role of truth police. We feel it’s our duty to cut them down to size. They need to be corrected, we think. (Do they?)
In the socially-charged atmosphere of the last few years, I’ve spent wayyyyy too many hours on Facebook and Twitter and other platforms, arguing with people about all sorts of different topics. Sometimes it stayed civil, sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes I was the one who got down in the dirt and took a mean turn. I’m not proud of that.
But more importantly, I’m not arguing online anymore. Some bonehead that I don’t know from Adam wants to state a totally wrong fact, on a Facebook thread that I don’t really care about? Fine, let him. An obnoxious lady wants to type in ALL CAPS about political ideas that she doesn’t understand? Whatever.
It’s not worth the energy to engage. And I’ll never change their minds, not like that at least. Arguing only serves to make me feel crummy and angry and stressed. My stomach becomes a knotted up ball, and I repeatedly check my phone to see what that idiot typed next — all while missing the joy and family time right in front of me. Not to mention, I’ve spent my time and energy to spread negativity to a stranger.
Ugh, what a waste.
I’m done with that!