American singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams tapped into something truly revolutionary and inspiring for his first No. 1 solo hit, "Happy." Happiness is not an emotional state experienced solely by bodacious Buddhists and middle-aged rappers. We all possess the tools and skills needed to be gleefully happy -- even when we argue.
The difference between those who use arguing as a sword and those who use it as a shield is that the former argue from a place of -- believe it or not -- happiness.
As a lawyer, I argue daily and with gusto because I am fiercely protective of my client's interests. However I am not in the habit of sacrificing my happiness health to effectively argue, and neither should you.
Researchers at the University of Chicago surveyed some 50,000 people in widely varying professions and found that high-prestige jobs -- lawyers, doctors, bankers -- scored low on the happiness spectrum. Those who reported the highest levels of happiness and job satisfaction were physical therapists, firefighters and sculptors. (If my third-grade papier mâché project was not so horrid, I might have followed in the footsteps of the euphoric Michelangelo and rapturous Rodin.)
Everyone needs to make arguments for why they deserve a pay raise; why the Little League umpire should get his prescription checked before calling another strike; and why Mr. Smith next door should refrain from mowing his lawn at daybreak on a Saturday morning. To get what you want and live the life you want, you have to argue from a place of happiness.
Without further ado, I give you my three simple rules for happy arguing:
1. Flattery makes the heart grow happier: You do not have to placate your adversary with a big bear hug. Instead, think about ridding yourself of debilitating body language that might make you feel fleetingly triumphant but in the end, quite rotten. Rude gestures such as eye rolling, pursuing the lips à la Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, and flamboyant hand gesticulations do nothing to advance your argument. Besides, are you trying to swat a fruit fly? When you focus on the argument instead of annihilating the competition, resentment is minimized and bliss is amplified.
2. Declutter your arguing phraseology: Have you noticed 10-year-olds are outstanding arguers because the world according to a prepubescent teen is full of a finite number of concepts? Children tend to simplify without sacrificing substance. For adults, a rarefied, focused argument is a happy one because it requires far fewer mental gymnastics. When you abridge your argument and omit verbosity, you will be transformed into a happy arguer.
3. Preparation puts pep in a happy arguer's step: Dig up all the materials for your argument beforehand; comb through data, documents, statistics, videos, photographs, emails and voicemail messages. You can never be overprepared to argue. Preparation is key to becoming a happy arguer. It gives you confidence, increases your knowledge, and allows you to rely on facts without sacrificing validity and style.
Whom you fight with, what you fight about, and the frequency with which you fight matters far less to your happiness health than how you fight. When you learn to argue from a place of happiness, you will feel less isolated and your stress level will be significantly curtailed.
Now take the "Happy" tune that is stuck in your head, go forth, and prosper as a happy arguer.