Everyone is born with a certain personality. As a psychologist I know you can trim the neurotic edges, and make them more adaptable, but you never change them. Whatever personality type they exhibited in their first year-- they will have for the rest of their lives. Therapy can transform people's functionality and perception of self but not their personalities.
Many of us who were given the argumentative type of personality have tried to quell it over the years. Usually there is a lot of pressure to, as my mother said, "tone it down." She repeatedly said, "So you are right, it doesn't matter, just get along. It doesn't matter in the long run." What planet was she from?
Because hyperactive and other labels weren't common parlance in the 1950's I was just called "busy, bossy and Irish." All Irish people know the joke, What is Irish Alzheimer's? You forget everything but the grudges. In my Catholic school everyone was given a nickname. Usually it was a saint we had all prayed to. for example-- Some forgiving kind boy was called St. Francis. I, however, defied the saint category and was called Perry Mason (a defence attorney in a 1950's T.V. courtroom drama) even by the principal. I used to raise my hand, walk to the front of the class and, with arms behind me, outline why the rules in the playground should be more equitable. (You get the picture.)
I think people are given personalities from somewhere-- God alone, knows where, and then humans develop traits to augment their personality's effectiveness. I have always been really good at arguing. I have a good memory and am good on my feet. I like to organize facts and present them cogently. Before I went to school, I lined up my dolls to listen to my rules for my swing set.
This got me nowhere in Catholic school. When I argued about free will (a philosophical enigma I thought I'd solved) I was dubbed a "Doubting Thomas." If I got really inflamed over, say, unfair privileges of the older grade fives, I was called a devil or told to take my forked tongue and slither back to the garden of Eden.
However, by the time I hit high school (no longer Catholic -- we'd had a non-amicable parting of the ways), my methodical recall, clear outline of facts, plus my forceful presentation were admired by some. In fact, I was on the debating team in high school and university.
That kind of forceful personality works wonders in the workplace as no one wants to go against you, but it can wreak havoc in your personal life. You can outline a totally rational, lengthy argument to your children, and they say things like "I don't care." You can do the same with your husband and he, like Kellyanne Conway, said during a Meet the Press interview, "I have alternative facts."
As the years spin by you realize that holding grudges and spewing facts was not gaining me family peace or personal equanimity. You could win the argument, but lose the war. Plus, grudges take up a huge amount of memory storage that could be more effectively used.
Therefore, in my forties and fifties, I made all kinds of efforts to change my basic personality style from angry fact spewer (everyone said I was born to be a litigator) to warm acceptor. I read books from The dance of Anger to Hannah Arendt's The Origin of Totalitarianism, took courses, tried meditation, yoga, and even a Chinese Herbalist. Nothing worked. Why? : Several reasons. My personality was cut in stone and I was good at it. Cutting through another person's argument with facts and a bit of humour was my raison d'être. Sometimes I would come home very cheerful and my husband would actually say, "Who did you fight with today?" It is hard to give up something that you enjoy and gives you an endorphin high.
The one thing that changed me or trimmed my edges was old age. I was knocked off my pedestal in my seventies. I was no longer so perfect at the art of verbal defence. I didn't always have facts at my fingertips. I would have to search my brain and sometimes that information would not pop into my head until hours after the debate. I had lost my sword. Instant recall requires a non-aging memory. Humour takes spontaneity and if you know what you want to say and it is funny, it has to be recalled and said in exactly the right moment. There is a lot that goes into a funny story and slow recall ruins the joke. Split-timing is the backbone of humour.
So what is there left to do when your major defences, instant recall and humour are compromised? You have no choice. You have to become a different, nicer person, one who listens to others instead of mustering their own opinions. It is amazing what a good listener you can become, if you are not organizing your own argument in your head while they are speaking.
Parenting, grand-parenting, and marriage are easier since there is nothing to argue about. They say how they want to do things and I agree. It is too hard and fraught with mishap to argue. When a friend tells me something she has done, instead of saying what's wrong with her idiotic decision, I say, "That's what you needed to do. I get it." and I really did get it. Facts are over rated.
I was recently at a funeral of a friend and ran into someone I used to know twenty years ago and I'd forgotten why we lost touch. I was so happy to see her and we chatted amiably for a long time and agreed to get together. On my way home my husband said he was so happy to see my talking to my old friend and not holding a grudge. He said the "old you" would have cut her dead after she said that rubbish about your memoir."
I was enraged. I yelled , "Oh my God, I forgot she did that. I'll never speak to her again." but I'll probably forget and resume the friendship. The deficits of old age has forced me to drop my sabre. The "collateral damage" is I am a happier, nicer person.