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A Discussion A Disagreement An Argument and a Fight

by Hans Bluedorn

Most conversations can be put into one of four categories – a discussion, a disagreement, an argument, or a fight. Let’s look at what we mean.

Kathy: Hello, Roberta. How have things been going?

Roberta: Fine, but I wish it would rain. My petunias are nearly dried up. There isn’t supposed to be any rain today.

Kathy: The extended forecast said we’d have rain later this week.


This conversation is only a discussion. Kathy and Roberta are sharing information. They both might not have the same information, but they agree with one another.

Here is a disagreement:

Roberta: Oh, I hope so. Where did you hear it was going to rain?

Kathy: It was on The Weather Channel. I always watch The Weather Channel for my weather.

Roberta: Really? I prefer


Now Roberta has a difference of opinion with Kathy. Roberta likes better than The Weather Channel. They are still having a discussion, but now they disagree. However, neither feels that she needs to convince the other. Let’s see what happens when they try to convince one another.

Kathy:I think The Weather Channel is more accurate. It seems like every time they predict a storm, it happens. I wouldn’t go to if I were you. They don’t seem to be as accurate.

Roberta: Not in my experience. I’m sure The Weather Channel is a good source for weather news, but nothing beats for accuracy. received the ‘Windy’ award from the National Meteorologists Association for being the most accurate weather source.


Now, Roberta and Kathy are giving evidence for what they think. They are having an argument. I know that sounds like a nasty word – argument – but it isn’t bad. It just means that Kathy and Roberta think it is appropriate to use evidence and reasoning to convince one another. As long as they talk civilly, there isn’t a problem. What gives the word “argument” a bad name is when it turns into something else – a fight.

Kathy: Oh, really. I’ll bet you made that up. I’ll bet there’s no National Meteorologists Association.

Roberta: I didn’t make it up. What are you insinuating?

Kathy: You’re always making things up to sound smart. If you ask me, you haven’t said a true word for years.

Roberta: At least I’m not a little-hen-clucking-gossip like you. I’ll take my hat and leave.

Kathy: I hope your petunias shrivel up and get eaten by a striped cucumber beetle.


Kathy and Roberta are fighting now. This type of conversation is never appropriate. Kathy and Roberta aren’t talking about where to go for a weather forecast anymore; they are attacking and insulting each other. Kathy is calling Roberta a liar, and Roberta is calling Kathy a gossip – both nasty names.

What is appropriate?

While it is nearly always okay to have a discussion with someone, sometimes it is not appropriate to disagree, and sometimes it is not appropriate to argue. It is very seldom appropriate to fight.

For example, if the Queen of England walked up and introduced herself, it would be appropriate to have a pleasant discussion with her. However, it probably wouldn’t be proper to disagree with her, at least not right then. And, it certainly wouldn’t be appropriate to argue or fight.

But let’s say you were a student in a classroom and the teacher said something very wrong. Let’s say he said the King Cobra of southeast Asia is not poisonous and is really a cuddly snake who likes to be kissed on the nose. In this situation, it would be okay to stand up and disagree. And depending on the type of class you were in, it might be okay to argue with him – explaining that the King Cobra is poisonous, how it injects a powerful neurotoxic venom, and how without prompt medical aid, its victims are certain to die.

Sometimes it is a waste of time to argue.

Zach: What is the capital of South Dakota? I have no idea.

Todd: I don’t know. Maybe it’s Tulsa?

Zach: I think it’s Los Angeles. That sounds Swedish, and I know there are lots of Swedish people in South Dakota.

Todd: No way. It’s got to be Tulsa. My grandmother was Swedish, and she said she once visited Tulsa.

Both Zach and Todd admitted they didn’t know what the capital of South Dakota was, but they’re arguing about it anyway. Until one of them gets out an atlas and looks it up, they are wasting their time.

There are other times when we shouldn’t argue.

Guy: Hey, you! I think you parked just a little too close to my car – move it.

You: Actually, I was in this parking spot before you came. You were the one who parked close to me.

Guy: Don’t be smart-alecky to me, Bub. Just move your car over.

Sometimes, arguing can be dangerous. This man is obviously upset and isn’t thinking clearly, so arguing about who was in the parking place first would probably only make him more angry.

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him” (Proverbs 26:4, NKJV).

In the following examples, which is a discussion, which is a disagreement, which is an argument, and which is a fight?

1. Mom: Joey, it’s time for you to go to bed.
Joey: I don’t want to go to bed. I want to stay up.

2. Zach: Ouch. That bee stung me.
Todd: That wasn’t a bee, it was a wasp. You can tell because bees can fly. That wasp just slithered along the ground.
Zach: No, it has to be a bee. It made a rattling noise. Wasps don’t rattle before they sting, silly.
Todd: I still think it’s a wasp. Bees sting with their tails, and that wasp bit you.

3. Mr.: Honey, I bought you flowers for your birthday.
Mrs.: Today isn’t my birthday; it was last month.
Mr.: I mean our anniversary.
That’s next month.
Mr.: Sorry, honey, I forgot.
That’s okay. Thanks for the flowers.

In the following situations, do you think it would be appropriate to argue or not?

4. Atheist: There is no God, and I can prove it. If God created the earth, why is there so much death and destruction in the world? God either doesn’t exist or doesn’t care about us.
You: Uh, I beg to differ with that.

5. Hans: Good grief, this article is 1,400 words and it is supposed to be 700. I’ll need to cut out a lot.
Nathaniel: Actually, I remember we were allowed 723 words.
Hans: No. I distinctly remember 700.
Nathaniel: 723.

6. A blond Australian guy hands Queen Elizabeth an Australian Death Adder: “’Ere she is. Isn’t she a beaut? Aye. Don’t be scared. She’s perfectly harmless; she would never bite a queen.”

Answers to quiz:

  1. Disagreement.
  2. Argument.
  3. Discussion. They didn’t disagree on anything.
  4. Argue, if you have a good argument.
  5. Hans: This is a pointless argument.
  6. Run!

First appeared in Homeschooling Today magazine, November-December 2004.

Copyright November 01, 2004, all rights reserved. 29023 views

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