The desire to prevail in disputes and disagreements is natural. This urge is often exploited to favorable effect in athletic contests and warfare. The compulsion to win at all costs takes on more nuanced value when it comes to interpersonal conflicts.
If there has been a falling out and you have come away feeling energized because you “owned” the other person, was this victory really for the best? Even though you technically won the quarrel and appeared to be the victor you may eventually realize that you lost more than you gained.
The victory came at a heavy cost. That is, it eroded your dignity, respect, and trustworthiness. You feel isolated because the other person was deeply hurt. The person and her or his friends have lost their faith in you and are staying away. Was it worth putting your relationships in jeopardy in order to claim victory? Wouldn’t compromise have been better?
We learn the hard way that it is best to choose our battles wisely. We feel temptation to compete with anyone who doesn’t see eye to eye with our views. We want to get our way in order to prove we are right. We hate to be challenged or feel threatened. However, if we engage in every potential disagreement we will dissipate our energy and appear as a hostile player to everybody we meet.
If we engage a dispute against a friend, we greatly risk losing an important ally. Both sides will suffer resentments. We perceive the other person as a threat to our own success and happiness so we seek to subdue him. The conflict runs the chance of going out of control, then one or the other seeks to win at any cost. This scorched Earth approach ends up being a lose/lose proposition.
When we engage in a serious quarrel and later realize the win has taken a toll, this is a signal to apologize to the other party. The longer we procrastinate and brood about the scenario, the more we convince ourselves that we were correct. Then we become more set in our ways. To apologize becomes more difficult or we may forgo apology altogether. This will further test our relationship and possibly strain it to the breaking point.
It is best to request a truce and make amends. We can seek out common ground and ask for forgiveness so everyone can put the dispute to rest. This needs to be done sincerely so as not to manipulate or wiggle our way out of the uncomfortable situation. Despite our best efforts our victory at all costs may still turn out to be a big loss for one or both parties.
There will be the choice between reconciliation or continued enmity by both parties. By winning the argument ruthlessly, we may have caused irreparable damage. In the end we come to realize that all that effort was in vain. After the communication breakdown the end result was a no win/no win.
If the relationship is damaged beyond repair, that becomes an opportunity to pause and consider positive change. What can be learned from the experience? What did we do to contribute to the failure? All we can do in the end is apologize and let the chips fall where they may. Whatever happens, it is time to move on while keeping the lessons learned in mind.