Nothing drives me crazier than being in a no-win argument. What’s worse is when I don’t even know that I’m in one, but I keep arguing thinking I will get my point heard! Here’s how to spot when you are in a no-win argument, and what to do next.
When you are up against someone who is, let’s say, ‘argumentative’, you’ve probably noticed that they will keep arguing until they win or you give up – even if their arguments don’t make any sense! This is because they are determined to be right. Here are some of the methods they will use when you approach them with a complaint . . .
- Outright denial that (whatever) happened.
- Minimize their actions, “It wasn’t that bad!” or “Others have done worse”.
- Justify their actions by pointing out something similar you did (but the two things are not equal in severity).
- Blaming someone or something else for their actions.
- Attack you, your character, your intelligence, your family, etc.
- Threaten you (emotionally) if you make a big deal about it (“Fine, I’ll just tell the kids that you made me lose my job.”)
- Cut-off (i.e., storm out of the room, or threaten to leave the relationship).
- Excuses that don’t make sense, like “I couldn’t look for a job today because I had to pick up the kids” (picking up the kids took 30 minutes, while the other 6 hours are unaccounted for).
- Cross-complaining (introducing a complaint about something you did to distract you from your complaint).
This is where it gets interesting (and horribly difficult because they are desperate to not be wrong). . .
- Self-loathing – going into a spiral about how horrible they are. This is hard to witness and often times tugs at our heartstrings and gets us to back off.
- Threat of self-harm. “I guess I’ll just kill myself then!”
- Guilt/Shame – ‘You never loved me.” or “You just want to control me.”
- Begging/Pleading/Crying a/k/a remorse and promises to be different (but as soon as the moment passes, they resume their old behavior).
Central to all of these methods is a rigidity of thinking on their part (or you might call it pride). You are effectively dealing with a mule that has sat down on the path and refuses to budge no matter how absurd their arguments become! They simply will not give up, give in, validate your point, or otherwise back off of their stance. They are desperate to hold their position, regardless of how ridiculous they may sound while cycling through their repertoire of arguments.
What is important to know when you are up against someone like this is that they believe their thinking to an extent. In reality, they are a victim of their own distorted thinking. They can’t see it! This doesn’t make it okay for them to continue, and it probably will do little good to tell them that their thinking is the problem.
Your take away? When you are up against someone like this, you need to understand that they are caught in their manipulative thinking and stop arguing with them. You will not win, or even get your point heard. At that point, they will be arguing with themselves and they will eventually stop. Look instead at why you are so determined to get them to hear you. Once you discover that in yourself, you will have something you can actually work on and begin to make some progress!