There’s a good argument that arguments are good
Always the clever one, science has finally determined that the ancient art of arguing - that cornerstone of both democracy and the first two seasons of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills - is actually good for society.
Researchers at the University of Virginia have found, through a study of some 150 13-year-olds, that teenagers who regularly argue with their parents are more likely to resist peer pressure, as well as drugs and alcohol.
They are also 97 per cent more likely to be sent to their room for being obnoxious little brats who may have raised an interesting and valid point about table manners being a social construct, but should still set the table because their father told them to (note to any future children of mine reading this: Go to your room).
What the study fails to mention, however, is that a small percentage of these sassy teens will go on to spend the rest of their lives ruining perfectly pleasant conversations by shouting their viewpoint until others awkwardly withdraw from the exchange. While most of us are able to disagree politely with the views of friends and strangers, there is a small minority who are completely incapable of doing so without turning their face into the most punchable object in the room. They confuse belligerence with assertiveness, viewing every discussion as a heated skirmish to be won through excessive volume and a keen refusal to listen.
Far too many of us, it seems, have forgotten how to argue. Online comment sections, Twitter trends and Facebook threads are littered with the condescending howls of people who view the opinions of others as little more than props and novelties. We see our various online profiles not as a way to communicate with others and share ideas, but as shrines dedicated to our sacred points of view. More often than not, the heated battles that rage across Twitter are not true arguments - they are simply illusions of debate created by combatants armed with megaphones and earplugs.
Argument is important. The absence of robust argument can lead to dictatorships, financial crises, entire collections of Tim Burton movies starring Johnny Depp in pale make-up and Matthew Newton’s inner monologue. Every parent should encourage their child to argue fearlessly and intelligently. A person should always learn to question before they learn to agree.
But be sure to provide handy hints that will allow your spawn to avoid transforming into the unmoving, wikipedia-citing, logic-devouring hate-monster that has become so common across the digital world.
Teach them that one can be assertive and civil at the same time - that manners do not detract from the ferocity and fervour of one’s delivery. Tell them that typing in all-caps is not a sign of independence and calculated aggression, but an indication that you are puzzled by the simple configuration of a common keyboard.
Teach them, also, that you do not “win” an argument within a relationship - you merely parry and catch your breath. To win an argument with a loved-one is to end it before either side noticeably loses (and is forced to allow the other to rent The Vow next time they’re at the DVD place).
Sometimes, you should tell them, the best result is to walk away with a changed mind - because that can only ever follow a proper argument.
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