Being disagreeable

As a freshman in college, I was required to take an intro to logic and critical thinking. The professor was notorious for being a bit intimidating and didn’t mess around. He routinely would select one of the 15 or so of us with which to argue a point. He then proceeded to just barely nudge the conversation until he had whichever student it was trapped, and went for the kill.

I won’t soon forget or possibly ever forget the day it became my turn. I kept coldly persistent and parried his every slight twist to make sure we were still having the same argument. He took the challenge, of course. Eventually, he broke into a big grin and said something like, “I guess you’re not going to budge,” and conceded. It felt good. But really, it was a sign that I could learn from a master in action. Persistence is a gift and clarity of thought an absolute necessity in that kind of situation. Being unemotional in a disagreement helps because it’s not about feelings, mine or otherwise. Learning that early enough on in order to have constructive disagreement was a gift that still gives, when I use it.

I’m not always cool under pressure. I don’t always remember. But when I stop and think, I at least have a chance.

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