What Does “Choose Your Battles” Really Mean?

What Does “Choose Your Battles” Really Mean?

Most of us have been advised at one time or another to choose our battles.  We know it’s good advice, yet rarely stop and think about the criteria for passing up one battle and choosing to engage in another. 


To begin with, it pays to keep in mind that words never perfectly express what we mean.  We use them as if they’re much more precise than they really are.  So, whenever conflict appears to be brewing, it can’t hurt to reflect on whether the seemingly provocative words used by the other party were intended to elicit a defensive response or, as discussed earlier here on Big Think, constitute a true offense or insult.  The former is more accidental – a slip of the tongue, a misstatement – while the latter intends to hurt or upset in some way.

When faced with a potential insult, conflict can be avoided by training yourself to be a little less sensitive or quick to anger.  The most effective negotiators bypass insults and treat them as accidents when doing otherwise might prevent them from achieving their goals.  They might use phrases like, “I might have phrased that differently, but I get your drift” or “That’s not the first or last time I’ve heard something along those lines, but let’s get back to where we were making progress” to steer a conversation headed for conflict back onto a more productive path.

So when should you use these and other techniques?  When is a battle not worth the aftermath?  Consider the following guidelines. It's best not to engage when:

(1) There’s a low probability of winning without doing excessive damage

(2) Upon reflection, winning isn't as important as it originally seemed 

(3) There likely will be a time down the line when you can raise the issue again with a different person or in a different way

(4) The other party's style is provocative whether speaking with you or others, so it’s not worth taking personally

(5) You could win on the immediate issue, but lose big in terms of the relationship

It’s easier to apply these choose-your-battle rules when you don’t feel strongly about an issue or when the relationship doesn’t have a lot of baggage.  It’s precisely at such times, however, that they’re most needed. 

The next time a verbal battle looks imminent, consider these guidelines.  Then consider what might be said or done to move the conversation back onto a constructive path. Try a useful phrase like, “I almost took that as an insult, but I see your point,” “There’s a time to sort that out, but right now we’re making progress,” or “I’m not up for arguing today – let’s not and say we did.” With a little luck, you'll steer the conversation back on track, and turn choosing your battles into a way to win them.

Photo: baki/Shutterstock.com

U.S. Navy controls inventions that claim to change "fabric of reality"

Inventions with revolutionary potential made by a mysterious aerospace engineer for the U.S. Navy come to light.

U.S. Navy ships

Credit: Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • U.S. Navy holds patents for enigmatic inventions by aerospace engineer Dr. Salvatore Pais.
  • Pais came up with technology that can "engineer" reality, devising an ultrafast craft, a fusion reactor, and more.
  • While mostly theoretical at this point, the inventions could transform energy, space, and military sectors.
Keep reading Show less

China's "artificial sun" sets new record for fusion power

China has reached a new record for nuclear fusion at 120 million degrees Celsius.

Credit: STR via Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

China wants to build a mini-star on Earth and house it in a reactor. Many teams across the globe have this same bold goal --- which would create unlimited clean energy via nuclear fusion.

But according to Chinese state media, New Atlas reports, the team at the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) has set a new world record: temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds.

Yeah, that's hot. So what? Nuclear fusion reactions require an insane amount of heat and pressure --- a temperature environment similar to the sun, which is approximately 150 million degrees C.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it. In nuclear fusion, the extreme heat and pressure create a plasma. Then, within that plasma, two or more hydrogen nuclei crash together, merge into a heavier atom, and release a ton of energy in the process.

Nuclear fusion milestones: The team at EAST built a giant metal torus (similar in shape to a giant donut) with a series of magnetic coils. The coils hold hot plasma where the reactions occur. They've reached many milestones along the way.

According to New Atlas, in 2016, the scientists at EAST could heat hydrogen plasma to roughly 50 million degrees C for 102 seconds. Two years later, they reached 100 million degrees for 10 seconds.

The temperatures are impressive, but the short reaction times, and lack of pressure are another obstacle. Fusion is simple for the sun, because stars are massive and gravity provides even pressure all over the surface. The pressure squeezes hydrogen gas in the sun's core so immensely that several nuclei combine to form one atom, releasing energy.

But on Earth, we have to supply all of the pressure to keep the reaction going, and it has to be perfectly even. It's hard to do this for any length of time, and it uses a ton of energy. So the reactions usually fizzle out in minutes or seconds.

Still, the latest record of 120 million degrees and 101 seconds is one more step toward sustaining longer and hotter reactions.

Why does this matter? No one denies that humankind needs a clean, unlimited source of energy.

We all recognize that oil and gas are limited resources. But even wind and solar power --- renewable energies --- are fundamentally limited. They are dependent upon a breezy day or a cloudless sky, which we can't always count on.

Nuclear fusion is clean, safe, and environmentally sustainable --- its fuel is a nearly limitless resource since it is simply hydrogen (which can be easily made from water).

With each new milestone, we are creeping closer and closer to a breakthrough for unlimited, clean energy.

The science of sex, love, attraction, and obsession

The symbol for love is the heart, but the brain may be more accurate.

Videos
  • How love makes us feel can only be defined on an individual basis, but what it does to the body, specifically the brain, is now less abstract thanks to science.
  • One of the problems with early-stage attraction, according to anthropologist Helen Fisher, is that it activates parts of the brain that are linked to drive, craving, obsession, and motivation, while other regions that deal with decision-making shut down.
  • Dr. Fisher, professor Ted Fischer, and psychiatrist Gail Saltz explain the different types of love, explore the neuroscience of love and attraction, and share tips for sustaining relationships that are healthy and mutually beneficial.

Sex & Relationships

There never was a male fertility crisis

A new study suggests that reports of the impending infertility of the human male are greatly exaggerated.

Quantcast