I had lunch the other day with a bunch of guys from work, most of whom I don't know very well. One of them is pretty loud and opinionated, and I thought more than a few of his opinions were uninformed and/or wrong-headed. There was a part of me that wanted to argue with him, but I also had the sense that it would be completely fruitless and annoying. It seems pretty clear that this guy already knows everything there is to know.
It did occur to me later that part of the reason this guy probably thinks that he's so smart is because nobody ever bothers to argue with him. And when they do, I'm sure he "wins" by wearing them out. Just a reminder for anyone who needs to hear it: just because people stop arguing with you doesn't mean you're right, and it doesn't mean that they don't think you're underinformed, an idiot, and/or a jackass.
I feel pretty confident in saying this because, on further reflection, it's entirely possible that I was this guy at some points in my past. For sure, I had ideas that I felt pretty strongly about and would happily argue until the other person came around to my way of thinking. I know I thought I was pretty smart, pretty clever, and absolutely correct. I mean they couldn't counter my arguments! Clearly my beliefs and opinions were unassailable, because they couldn't be assailed. I hope I didn't rub other people the way this guy was rubbing me, but if I'm being honest... well, it's not unlikely, even though I have a hard time thinking of myself that way.
In any case, I think--I hope--I'm a lot better at listening, at considering, at reconsidering than I was back then. I'm less inclined to have those passionate arguments these days, but I hope that when I do, it's a different spirit in which I have them, one that is open to learning something, to having my own mind changed, and perhaps one that might actually be more persuasive since, as they say, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.