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Don’t argue the other side unless you have to

Why the good cop is the happier cop while enjoying the benefits of their bad partner.

As a jovial fellow, I’m generally much happier being the good cop in a duo. Or even a solo, for that matter.

It’s a powerful role, and one that generally finds me living a better life than many people I’ve watched slowly but steadily devote themselves to the full-time pursuit of suspecting everyone they interact with of trying to screw them over.

But, having said that, I’m magnanimous enough to admit I might have a fault. And that fault is being generous to a fault. Which can mean, occasionally, I spend more energy thinking about how the other person/team in a situation will react to my/our gambits than is necessarily healthy.

Sometimes that’s how they’ll counteract our play, rendering us defeated before a move has even been made.

“They’ll just say this,” I’ll shrug, gifting the opposition not only with my entire capacity for game theory, but also a cold and emotionless reaction to any emotional or humanitarian appeal for fairness and justice.

Obviously, there’s a difference between anticipating countermoves and figuring out an appropriate response ahead of time, but if you’re an overthinker with an excess of empathy, that can easily become a pretext for not bothering to battle for what’s rightly yours.

Nobody likes a devil’s advocate. Even Satan himself has been known to roll those sulphur-flecked eyes at the unasked-for intrusion of a better-natured angel attempting to put himself in those abyssal shoes to see the other side of an ontological argument.

But it’s especially annoying if you aren’t just doing it as a parlour-game exercise because you miss your high-school debate club.

(Actually, I’d argue the toss on which is more annoying. Complete with palm cards and a strong, clear voice, making eye contact with individual audience members before my pre-selection for the Student Representative Council. But I digress.)

Fortunately for me, I surround myself with curmudgeons, grognards and warriors who relish the thrill of victory. Who don’t mind wading into battle to get results, even if it means they’re the real-life equivalent of those TV talking heads who announce they’re not here to make friends. Who don’t care what the response will be, because the point is the conflict, not the win.

And, as the good cop, I get the benefits of their brutal bravado without losing my halo. So, really, who’s playing this game better? Well, until they read this and realise they’ve been my catspaw all along, I suppose.

Unless they realise they need me to be the light counterpoint to their darkness, the yin to their yang. Or maybe they’ll think this is all a self-deprecating joke, and won’t take it seriously at all.

You know what? Maybe I won’t submit this column at all. It’s only going to end with nobody wanting to work with me ever again.

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