Dale Carnegie and Sun Tzu on Avoiding Arguments

We’ve made some really good headway looking at tips from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. In case you’re a newer reader, below you’ll see what we’ve covered so far. Click on any tip and you’ll be taken to the Influence PEOPLE article for that piece of timeless advice from Dale Carnegie.

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
Give honest, sincere appreciation.
Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Six Ways to Make People Like You
Become genuinely interested in other people.
Remember their name.
Be a good listener & encourage others to talk about themselves.
Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
Make the other person feel important.

Now we move into the section of the book that teaches “How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking” and the advice we start with is probably Carnegie’s best advice – avoid arguments. Sounds easy enough but sometimes it seems unavoidable.
Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War, a book about conflict, sometime around 500 BC. He had this to say about fighting, “It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” In a nutshell Sun Tzu is saying only pick the conflicts you know you can win or else avoid the conflict altogether. Arguing is a type of conflict and quite often it can be avoided IF you’re honest with yourself and your assessment of another. This is similar to the general knowing his army as well as the enemy’s. For us this simply means, if you know what sets you off you can avoid people or situations that are likely to make that happen. Let’s start with ourselves. Unfortunately, knowing yourself isn’t so easy. That’s why Ben Franklin said, “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” We have blind spots and sometimes we don’t want to face the truth. But, if we’re willing to make the hard self-assessment we’ll come to learn our strengths and weaknesses.By the same token, when you know another person you can seek to avoid their triggers. Let’s consider the other person for a moment. It could be your spouse, boss or a friend but usually we have conflict with those who are closest to us. That’s just a sad fact of life. The good news is this; you probably know them well enough to know how to avoid the triggers that usually lead to conflict. For example, here’s one for the guys to avoid: You ask your wife to buy a case of Miller Light for$14.95, but instead she buys a jar of cold cream for $7.95. DON’T tell her the beer would make her look better at night than the cold cream! Ladies, you want to avoid telling Mr. Right he’s like a bank account – without money he doesn’t generate much interest.Both of those funny little jokes are sure to start an argument. Will you always avoid arguments? No. But, taking account of yourself and another can go a very long way to make the avoidance a reality. You could take the really high road and follow the advice Jesus gave his disciples, “Love your enemies.” Ouch, now that’s hard! Loving your enemies doesn’t mean feeling towards them the way you might with your parents, spouse or kids. No, love is a verb, a “doing” word. It’s placing the welfare of the other person above your own no matter the cost because it’s the right thing to do. Love your enemies and you won’t have enemies for long and you’ll have very few arguments.And think about this; who wins an argument? There’s always a jokester who says, “Me!” but in reality nobody wins. Oh sure, you may be “right” but is it worth it when being “right” damages or kills the relationship? Far too many people never speak to loved ones or friends because of arguments over things that seemed important but really weren’t. So resolve to yourself to do whatever is in your power to avoid arguing. That may mean having to let someone feel like they’re right. Big deal, especially if you know in your heart that you are right. Never lose sight of the goal, to win a friend or influence someone. ** FREE GIVE AWAY ** It would mean a lot to me if you’d help increase Influence PEOPLE readership by forwarding this blog to some friends or co-workers. Do so and you could win a copy of Dr. Cialdini’s book Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive. If you’re currently receiving email notification then you’re already registered to win! If you’ve not signed up for automatic notification then send me an email (BFA654@gmail.com) after you’ve shared the blog with someone and I’ll register you for the drawing. The lucky winner will be announced on next week’s posting. Thanks in advance, I appreciate your help! Brian
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

4 replies
  1. Victor Augusteo
    Victor Augusteo says:

    Incredible article there Mr. Brian

    I totally agree with you on this point. people usually wants to be "right" without foreseeing the outcome of the conflict. We have to realize somebody will be on the "wrong" side if u force yourself to be right.

    The best way to handle the people who wants to be right, i've discovered, is just to let them win and be happy. Always look at the positive side of things.



  2. Brian
    Brian says:

    I recently had a lively FB back and forth with my friend Bob Wagner. With his permission I've added it here for my readers to enjoy. It's long so it's two comments.

    Bob – "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality." Making friends shouldn't be the goal, making the right friends should. Some times you just have to ruffle some feathers. IHMO, America need to be less concerned with offending people and learn how to discuss the difficult issues. Avoiding Arguments causes things in society to fester and build deep resentment. Arguments are not bad it they resolve issues, and IMHO are far better than simply sweeping problems under a rug, living in denial, and allowing problems to fester. Standing on principle no matter how unpopular will gain the right kinds of friends, friendship that is built upon respect and admiration. Kissing Butt can get you a lot of friends, but in order to maintain them, your lips get pretty tired.

    Brian – I don't disagree that people should speak up in the political arena. However, my blogs are more directed at interpersonal communications, not politics. If you think people's basic problem is that they don't stand up for themselves you must live on another planet. Even The Bible backs up the assertion that our problem is being focused on what they want at the expense of the other person. Thus the 2nd greatest command, love your neighbor as yourself. See, we love ourselves plenty and spend most of our time looking out for #1. That becomes the source of interpersonal conflict, my wants collide with yours.

  3. Brian
    Brian says:

    Part 2

    Bob – I would say my comments are relevant to all aspects of life and society, not just politics. The sales people I deal with that speak straight to me are the most effective. The ones that come across as unprincipled, spineless, and have no core other than trying to get a sale typically fail. Honesty principle and shared core values is a phenomenal sales tactic to me. I sent a door to door sales guy packing yesterday once I heard his phony sales pitch. Honesty, integrity and ethics aren't limited to politics, they are the way everyone should lead their lives in all aspects. Sun Tzu who you reference was a general of legendary skill and ability. He is the original peace through strength. He as able to avoid conflict not by compromising his principles, but by going into a competitive environment with far superior skills, ability and tactics. His reputation then allowed him to go to the enemy and say, fight and die, surrender and live. Faced with an offer they couldn't refuse, they would surrender avoiding any conflict. Bottom like he exploited human nature that men won't die for causes that they don't believe in, and Sun Tzu gave them a system they could believe in. Hannibal did the same thing in Rome. Bottom line, Sun Tzu and Hannibal never abandoned principle, ethics and values to avoid confrontation. They simply said, we have a better system, a better military, a better leader, disagree with us and die, join us and live. Their tactic of avoiding conflict was a military tactic of preserving resources. When faced with abandoning principle and or conflicting, he would simply crush the people that disagreed. He spoke softly and carried a big stick. Reagan was a modern Sun Tzu, and is also the reason we set up East/West Berlin and North/South Korean situations, so people can compare the two systems side by side and hope they join the good side without firing a shot. Never do great leaders say join the dark side to avoid conflict, they set up a system that makes people want to join the good side. That is why people risk their lives in boats to reach Miami from Cuba. Success attracts followers.

    Brian – I don't disagree with your historical examples Bob but they are very different than the typical interpersonal interactions people have at work and home. Reread your note, it's all about generals and politicians. I write to business people and parents. Sun Tzu's advice transcends war so I thought it was applicable.

    I've not advocated abandoning principles or ethics so I'm not sure why you even bring that up? I think you read way too much into my writing from your political lens. In 700-900 blogs I can only cover so much material. Just because I don't touch on ethics in a particular article doesn’t mean I'm unconcerned about ethics. I already wrote a post on that months ago and put out a Cinch on it the other day. I'm all for ethical people in every walk of life so please don't insinuate that I'm not or that I advocate shady sales tactics.

    You've obviously had lots of bad experiences with salesmen. But never forget, your references to bad or unethical salesmen could easily be said of greedy CEOs and corrupt politicians (on both sides). You and I both know there are good CEOs and politicians but the average person doesn't hold either group in high esteem.


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