If you’re in a tit-for-tat conflict with someone and you rise above, be the bigger/more mature person, etc., they won.

Think about it. Someone’s nasty to you, you’re nasty to them, they’re nasty to you, you decide to be the adult and stop. They got the last word in. What’s more, as people think about feuds, the train of thought is often, “I’m going to be so bad to them, they CAN’T respond.” Thus not responding is appears the same as admitting defeat or being defeated.

What’s worse, this attack paradigm of being so nasty the other person/side/entity can’t retaliate does work. No one wants to be defeated, so the loser will often try to shift things so they weren’t really beaten, saying ‘I’m just being the bigger person’ or ‘This is what I wanted all along!’

So if you’re going to be mature, you need to be willing to emotionally lose the argument. This is, in technical terms, really hard.

They way to get around this is acknowledge that most conflicts have two elements, of which both have inherent value: the people therein, and the thing itself. So if you’re arguing about how to make a burrito or how to fund a bridge, the people who make the burrito or build the bridge matter, but the burrito or bridge matter too. It’s too easy to focus only on the people, and that’s not correct. Because you’re people, when you enter into conflict, (i.e. be a human-being around other humans) you’ll say, ‘I’m just as important as them!’ (true) ‘Therefore I’ll never surrender so they don’t get the win.’ (perhaps true, but foolish) That would be a wash, right?

Unless you want the bridge built or burrito wrapped, in which case surrendering and letting the other side win might get you something more than the conflict. The bridge gets built, the burrito wrapped.

But that’s really hard.

The crux of this matter is pride, of course, and one wonders why we have so much of it. The poison is a cure.

Pride holds on beyond all reason, and sometimes you can just not-die in the face of adversity for far longer than you imagine possible by pride alone. I did this stuck on a mountain once, and I’ve done it with marches, rides, and some work. But the sheer obstinate power of pride in the face of adversity is its own downfall, wherein you can fight on for pride alone when the efficient strategy is lose the battle to win the war. That’s especially the case when the combatant sides aren’t as fixed as one might imagine.

There was an article on the Diplomat about mistakes during the Cold War, and the article argued one of the biggest errors was dividing the world into immutable blocks of countries. A was a western country and was so forever. B was an enemy and could never be trusted. I’ll try to dig up the link. I recall thinking the article over simplified things, but I did think there’s a nugget of truth to it.

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