One of the pieces of advice you will most likely be given at numerous occasions early on in your career is: pick your battles. I must admit the first few times I heard this, I didn’t quite understand the full meaning and implications. Growing up, I was always used to arguing and fighting for what I thought was the right thing to do, regardless sometimes of the cost associated with that. Picking your battles is really about the realization that every time you engage in an argument with another party, there is an indirect cost associated with it, regardless of whether you are on the winning or loosing side of the argument. Soon enough, if you repeat engaging in such arguments with the same party, you will soon bankrupt that relationship account and find yourself in a corner. At that point you will have no tools at your disposal, to address future situations for which getting your point across might be crucial. The only way to nourish this account is by building a relationship based on trust and putting yourself in the other party’s shoes on an ongoing basis. Only when critical, do you then engage in arguments based on facts and leverage the relationship that you built, to get to the desired outcome.
So the next time you are about to enter into an argument, ask yourself this. Is what I am arguing for worth the cost that I am paying? If it is, do I have enough reserve in my trust account to cover these costs?
Finally I would like to add that this idea of personal accounts has been borrowed from Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in which he applied it in another context (keeping promises).