It would appear to be a simple notion, yet when it comes to communicating, quitting while ahead is often the last goal in one’s mind. Especially if the communication at hand is of a heated or escalated nature, winning the argument often comes with the cost of losing the communication war.
Why quit while you’re ahead?
The notion of quitting while ahead most likely comes from gambling, where one constantly runs the risk of losing everything, regardless of any recent victories or turns of luck. A conversation can be considered a gamble- especially one where the tone is not particularly friendly or socially safe.
Winning or losing may not extend beyond winning or losing face*, but the social capital tied up in saving or keeping face is often part of the turmoil of an argument- your actions and your principles can often take a momentary break from each other, and you might find yourself convincing others of the way you are or what you stand for, but in a way that may emphasize your character flaws instead.
Quitting while ahead can help you avoid backpedaling, embarrassing retractions, or the eventual apology that might be inevitable anyway- no point in having to apologize for being wrong and acting like a rageaholic, or a passive-aggressive jerk.
This is the easiest question in the world to answer, and yet the most difficult to enact in 97.5% of arguments. The key to quitting ahead is embracing a sense o f delayed gratification, and involves exerting a more-than-nominal amount of social capital and personal willpower.
…how does one quit while one is ahead, you ask?
Shut. The. Fuck. Up. It’s that simple. You want to quell an argument? Do you want to de-escalate or prevent an escalation in the first place? Quit while you’re ahead. Shut the fuck up. Just shut up. Cease the stream of increasingly self-righteous, self-serving and self-indulgent rhetoric that’s about to pin you into a verbal corner, and quit while you’re ahead.
This effort is worthwhile at any point in the argument, but its effects are more pronounced the sooner the shutting up takes place. The sooner you disengage and start keeping your opinions to yourself, the less fuel is added to the verbal conflict. By not providing your interlocutor with explanations or retorts you can effectively neutralize a conflict and maintain the advantage by controlling the conversation. As in, ending it. By shutting the fuck up.
*What is face?
Face is how we manage the needs for clarity and politeness. Face-threatening acts are those which threaten the face-wants of a speaker, which impose upon their autonomy or do not emphasize friendliness.