Closing Argument

by James J. Gross

“Swimming is not a workout,” my 16 year old son, Jake, said to his 13 year old brother, Nicholas, who is on the swim team. “Now rowing a boat—that is a workout,” said Jake, who is on the crew team.

An argument ensued. After I said, “Enough!”, Nicholas asked me if they could each make a one minute summary and then let me decide. This, no doubt, comes from having a lawyer for a dad.

I said, “Nicholas, there is only one thing you can say to win this argument.”

“What’s that? he asked.

In your one minute, say, “Jake, you are right. Everything you said is right. Everything you are going to say is right.”

Jake is very bright, articulate and persuasive Jake will argue with you until the cows come home. He has a compelling desire, as we all do, to be right. I am sure he will be very successful.

But he did not win this argument. Everyone knows that swimming is a workout. It reminds me of a poem I heard long ago:

Convince a man against his will
He’s of the same opinion still.

Arguments are won by listening, not talking.