Marolt: Knowing when you can’t win
If I learned anything from expressing my data-driven self-discovery of why Snowmass Ski Area doesn’t fire my jets, it is the art of effective arguing. Of the many responses I received about the column, one made me think and led to a pleasant exchange with a reader who definitely did not see it my way.
If he thought I was an idiot, he kept it to himself. He didn’t hint that my opinion was the result of physical or mental defect. There was no hidden sarcasm or inuendo in his words. He simply told me why he loved Snowmass and I hung on every word. And yet, it was as clear as a blue-sky powder day in early January that he disagreed with me.
I have had responses like this to other pieces I have written, but they come so infrequently that it allows time to wear them away in my memory. That’s OK from the perspective that it always makes this type of feedback refreshing and encouraging.
It’s not so good because it is a clear indicator that what I learn from them doesn’t linger in my mental make-up long enough to make a lasting difference in me.
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My hope is that if I get just a few more interactions of this type, the message will eventually stick.
The way this type of “arguing” works is simple to understand, but almost impossible to execute based on a broad sampling of debates I have been engaged in over the course of my entire life beginning from the first time I played king of the hill in the elementary school playground. That, like most debates, resulted in lots of fat lips.
I used to fight frequently with readers who picked them by way of nefariously crafted feedback. Some of the bait was as juicily enticing as a rotting pork chop in an unlocked dumpster is to a bear in September. Others were more concealed, like a nicely wrapped gift of Depends underpants at your 50th birthday party. It mattered not to me. I can sling maggot-laced insults with the best of them. I am an artist with acerbity. One of my greatest goals in these exchanges was to have somebody wake up in the middle of the night two weeks later and realize they had actually thanked me for a grievous affront that they had taken as an intricate flattery. The bummer is that you never have the satisfaction of knowing if this happened. One can only hope.
Over the years I figured out that you can never “win” an argument, and I mean this literally — arguments are not winnable — by anyone, ever. There are still people who believe the Earth is flat. There’s your proof.
We all like to think we have won arguments and many of us convince ourselves that we have, and we turn out to be the ones who keep on arguing, but confirming this with the other party would likely provide us with a different opinion and a completely new argument to not win, too.
Now, I usually answer contentious feedback with: “Thanks! I appreciate your note,” even though sometimes it makes my tailbone itch.
Maybe you can see now why the response from the guy last week, who just stated plainly and in detail why he thought Snowmass was the greatest ski area on the planet without ever hinting that I was a fool because I didn’t, led to a great conversation. I read it. I appreciated it. I mulled over attributes of Snowmass I had not considered before. I concluded that this guy is brilliant: I got all his insight without the usual side of derision that always leaves a bad taste.
I want to make this the gold standard of my expression of opinion. Isn’t it enough to state, “I think it’s wrong to say that, ‘If you grab a woman by the p—-, she will do whatever you want.’” It is plenty! There is little to debate. It is leaving all the meat on the bone instead of shredding it up with the fat and gristle and putting it into a casserole with peas, croutons and a can of mushroom soup, which is all a little hard to digest and will leave you with gas in your esophagus.
Let the reader draw his or her own conclusion. If their interest is piqued, they can research for themselves who said it and decide what they want about that person.
With that, I will say again, in a different way than last week: Snowmass is not my favorite ski area. Aspen Mountain is more challenging to me. That is all.
Roger Marolt skied with the Long brothers of Snowmass Village at Aspen Mountain on April 6. Talk about satisfying. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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