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Life Lesson 4: Choose Your Battles

Everybody loves being right. Everybody loves to win an argument. What if we change our mindset completely? What if we aim not to win outright, but to win by letting the other person win?

There are some situations where winning is vital. And there are far more situations where winning an argument will net no real benefit. These are the situations when it is okay to lose. In fact, losing may be the biggest victory of all.

How do we choose?
Dr. Laura Schlessinger
often uses these three statements to evaluate if a battle is necessary:

  1. Is it immoral?
  2. Is it illegal?
  3. Is it fattening?

If the answer to all three questions is “no,” then it may do you well to let the other party win.

What do I gain by losing?
When you begin to compromise on the unimportant issues, others begin to see you as someone who not only listens to the opinions of others but also is willing to hear them. This raises your respect in their eyes. Enough times of doing this will earn you a group of people who may disagree with you, but know they can trust your judgment. These people may become some of your greatest supporters down the road.

What if the answer is yes?
What happens if the suggestion ends up being immoral, illegal, or fattening? Hear the other person out. This will give you better understanding from which to make the decision to stay the course you had initially charted.

What do I gain by winning?
Often you gain nothing by winning. If you are sure to hear the entire concern out, then you gain a level of respect regardless of your final decision. It gives the impression (hopefully a well-founded impression) that you listen to the concerns of others and make informed decisions.

How does this apply to teaching?
I used to marvel at the high band school director when I was student teaching. He had a number of vocal parents involved with his band and so many of them hadn’t yet caught his vision for where the program was going. They would catch him at some of the least opportune moments and just go on and on about their concerns. He would sit back and just listen to their concerns. He would show that he understood and agreed with some of their arguments.

In the end, he would often change nothing whatsoever! But the result was that the parents had a growing respect for him and began to get on board with his program. I learned a lot about dealing with parents through observing him.

Joel Wagner
Joel Wagner (<strong><a href="">@sywtt</a></strong>) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. <strong><a href="">So You Want To Teach?</a></strong> is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

4 thoughts on “Life Lesson 4: Choose Your Battles

  1. I would hope that ‘fattening’ is a bit tongue-in-cheek; things can be harmful without being fattening (bulimia, as a particularly nasty example).

    However, even so, I’m not ENTIRELY sure I agree with those three as the only points. I would add “is it feasible?” as another. If you are always willing to give in when others ask things of you, you’ll wind up agreeing to more than you can accomplish! It also teaches others that if they are persistent, they can get you to do what they want as long as it isn’t illegal or immoral!

  2. @Clix – Yeah, I agree. I’m not advocating giving in to every single whim or suggestion that comes your way. Just to be open to it. Sorry if I wasn’t clear. Good cautions!

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