I know lots of people who love to argue. They seem to be against anything and would fight it out just to win all arguments. I wonder how much stress they get per day. And I guess they hate relaxing and drinking ice-cold bottomless tea, as well. Ever met folks hard to please—and seem to love it that way?
Mostly, they do that to impress you with their supposed intelligence. But they do not realize the health benefits they forfeit themselves if they only live content with peace and quiet by often agreeing with people. I said “often” agreeing. Out of 10, I see the need to disagree only about 0.01 times. And these 0.01 times are times when your opposing ideas are best kept to yourself. A few times you’ve got to voice them out, but majority of the time you can live perfectly without doing so.
I don’t mean you go all-out with their opinions each time people express them. Just agree with them that those are their opinions and have a right to them. Get what I mean? A lot of times, that’s all people want—to be able to have their say and be listened to without opposition. All you have to say is, “Ah okay.”
It’s not compromise. It’s not agreeing with wrong. It’s simply agreeing that people have a right to their beliefs, like their right to think that what they think is right. When asked about right and wrong issues, I express my opinion uncompromisingly. But I won’t use it to argue against other’s belief. If no one asks me my opinion, I won’t say a thing about it.
But Some Folks Won’t Let You Alone
There are times when people need to hear more than mere “Ah, okay.” They either want a debate or sincerely need advice. You have to distinguish between the two. If they want a debate, I’ll deny them that. I’m too dumb for debates. Instead, I’ll help them probe deeper into their premise by asking little questions, like, “So, how do you feel?” I once asked that to a friend who insisted that it wasn’t proper to drink water first thing in the morning on an empty stomach—and three glasses at that.
He wanted to demolish my early morning water therapy ritual and make me stop it. He thought it was bad habit for my health. Some people are like that—they don’t just want to express their opinion, they want to force it on you, too. They think it’s a service. They want to save you from your own stupidity.
“How’s your bowel movement in the morning?” I asked a follow-up question. “I move my bowels every other day,” he said sadly, obviously worried about it. “And you?” he asked me. “I have mine two times everyday. Sometimes three.” That was enough to stop his attempt at debate. I didn’t oppose or contradict him or anything like that. I merely helped him double check his premise. Lots of folks need a dose of their medicine, and you don’t need to argue with them. Just quietly and calmly give the dose.
Don’t Do an Overkill
If the person needs advice, on the other hand, don’t give a lot. That would be overdose. I note that a lot of people are just too happy to give tons of advice when asked. It’s like, you go to this doctor for your headache and he prescribes all medicine brands on headaches available on planet earth. Again, most people who “need advice” really just need someone to talk to—and be listened to. What they really need is kindness from another person. To be more precise, what they need is a reassuring nod from you. That you agree that they have a right to their opinion. That you understand.
In a sense, all they want is your bottomless tea, filled with ice.
When asked for advice (or my opinion), I always give an honest one, straight to the point. But I never force them to swallow it. I assure them that despite my difference in opinion from their opinion, I’m still willing to listen and understand. But my “nod” does not mean consent. It just means, “I understand how you feel.”
What Do I Get by Being Agreeable?
And the effect is astounding. You get them to agree with you, sooner or later. I have this friend who was obstinate and hot tempered since the day we met. He always fought with anyone who opposed him, company after company and year after year. But recently, he confessed to me. “I don’t know what happened. I’m beginning to be like you—just patiently ignoring offensive people and even being nice to them.” I never debated or argued with him about it. Each time he had trouble, I just listened to his story, looked at him steadily and nodded, saying, “Umm, okay.”
But when he asked me about what I’d do if I were in his shoe, I would just shrug my shoulders and say a dialogue in the movie, Frozen: “Let it go.” He would violently react to that and insist to punch his enemy in the nose. I just looked at him and laughed. And this is just an example.
I have had many incidents happen in my life and career when being agreeable like this opened doors of opportunities for friendship, employment, business deals, and sudden change of mind. Often, you don’t have to oppose or argue with people; you just have to listen to them and give them the right to express their opinions, at the same time showing them your stand and how firmly you stand.
I remember my stint with an outdoor advertising company. This client was so stubborn about not buying the photographic billboard he asked quotations for. Not even the heads of our sales and marketing departments could get him to buy, even after our two bosses treated him to an elegant dinner. It was a potential project.
As their last resort, they decided to send over an agent who could soften the heart of this difficult client and make him buy. They picked me, not because I was top in sales, but because they saw something in me. “You’re such a nice person it would seem a crime to break your heart,” the bosses said, or something to that affect.
So I went. After about an hour I came back with a down payment check. The bosses looked at each other in surprise and couldn’t believe what I just handed them. “What did you tell him?” one boss asked. “Nothing,” I said, “we just told each other stories and I listened most of the time. We just enjoyed our short conversation.”
Well, I didn’t tell my bosses how the client complained about our product and lead time and pricing and told me a lot of stories to that effect. I just nodded my head, listened and didn’t argue—because anyway, what he said was true. In contrast, my bosses argued with him. See? After that I and the client became friends and he preferred me over other agents with his projects and payments.
Once you perfect your mix of iced tea, you can serve it bottomless and people will seek after it.