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One of the phrases I use a lot in my daily life is, “The first act of war is defense.”

It’s a pretty deep sentiment if you really take a moment to sit down and think about what it means, particularly in your own life. Many want to believe that the first aggressive word spoken is the first act of war, but if you don’t engage with your own defensive words, then the war can never actually take place.

The idea of arguing is really an interesting concept. We engage in arguments to convince another party that we are, in fact, correct about the topic at hand. But here’s the problem with this: How many times have you walked away from a heated argument because you felt like the other person succeeded in changing your stance on the topic? Probably not often. As a matter of fact, you probably walked away feeling a greater dislike for the person you just argued with — and that’s about it.

Instead of engaging in an argument in the first place, think about what it is you’re trying to convey and ask yourself if it’s worth engaging. If you think it is, ask yourself why. Unless you’re an attorney — and it’s your job to argue — why engage in argumentative banter rather than have a cool, calm discussion? If you know that the person you’re disagreeing with is going to be combative, regardless of how you behave, why bother at all? Where will it get either of you in the end? You’ll both eventually walk away feeling disgruntled that you didn’t convince each other of your points — and neither side will come away the victor.

However, if you do find yourself involved in a debate, make a point to learn something from it. If you’re going to invest the time and energy to ferociously persuade someone else of your thoughts and opinions, make it a priority to learn from the situation, grow from it and be a better person.

No matter how strongly we feel about something, we can always learn a life lesson from the other side. So, either walk away and grow in peace from not engaging, or grow in the lesson you learned after ending an argument.

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