AVOID IF AT ALL POSSIBLE, ENGAGE WITH PRUDENCE!
tba, to be edited
THE INSTINCT TO PROTECT STATUS
Person A makes a comment, accusation, points out something wrong or contradicting, seeks to argue, appears to be doing such, etc.
Person B sees it, whether true or not, as an accusation, attack, invalidation, etc.
Person B seeks to defend - and they are off and running, into battle...
Humans have evolved to defend their "status", because in primitive times this determined the social benefits one received, which was an imperative in terms of the compulsion to pass on one's genes. This was vital to survival, so it was a strong "instinct". So, unless, as in other reactive situations, we must pause to "break" the reactivity (acting without thought as if a puppet/victim) and engage our brain. (Read System One And System Two, to see how to work this.)
It is often difficult to break the automatic cycle, which is essentially, actually, a habit - and it's a behavior based on a belief of how the world works and what to do to achieve the desired result (which, in this case, believe it or not, is to preserve one's vitally important status). The belief (pattern of neurons) in this case is outmoded and doesn't work, compared to other strategies that can be adopted (and built into habits) that are more successful.
Oftentimes, we fail to question the basis for the reaction in the first place. In most cases, our well-being in life will not be threatened at all by someone else making you wrong - meaning there is nothing to defend. And if one realizes that there is nothing to defend, obviously the reactivity would have no cue ("trigger") to start the reaction from in the first place. (So you'd use The Pause, to engage the higher brain, and then ask "is this an actual threat or something I can let pass, something that is not worth my effort?")
WHO'S AT FAULT HERE?
So, which of these two people are at fault here? (Know and understand No Fault and the related piece No Blame.) In terms of the "fault" society, both are. In terms of those who can keep their perspective on life, neither is "at fault" but both are lacking appropriate and sufficient knowledge to behave more productively. They are "responsible for doing" what is more productive and seeing that they are "knowledge deficient" and that the deficiency might better be corrected. Beware of the tendency to assume it is the other's fault, that the other person is doing "the bad". Beware of the "I perceive it, therefore it is" fallacy of thinking. This is often one of the priorities for a therapist to teach a new client, as it will enable a basis for having more realistic conversations. (Read Fact, "Truth", Reality, And Perception, as it is crucial to correct, effective thinking.) Beware of the tendency to "mind read", which is the fantasy where you can determine what someone else's motives are because you "sense" them. (Totally bullbleep!) This might look like "I know you really want to...make me...". (It is up to the other person in a polite way to say: I want you to know that what I think is not that, but it is this...) It's hard, though, to argue with a person who believes he/she has omniscient and accurate abilities to mind read, because the two people cannot engage in a reality conversation. (Read Assuming, Mind-Reading, And Interpreting Versus Verifying, Clearing Up And Cleaning Up.)
If one continues to hold the other as being at fault, the relationship will deteriorate over time, from both sides. It is insidious, harmful, and very destructive. If one person feels (believes, thinks) that one is a victim of the other person, then this creates a resentment and a huge make wrong that few relationships can survive.
A POSSIBLE EXAMPLE
You make an "innocent" remark (which means to you: "who, me, I'm not at fault here").
A: See that guy says the opposite of what you say..
B: Oh, why do you say that?
A: Oh, no reason. I just noticed it and thought I'd comment.
B: Well, you must have meant something. You seemed to be pointing out something contradicting me. Was that your purpose?
A: No, no. I was just noticing that they were not the same. No meaning other than that.
So, here, B has to judge whether this conversation will go deeper and/or whether it is worth pursuing at all (see below).
A's responsibility is to look deeper. But, while B can attempt to engage in a deeper conversation, B must assess when to stop the attempt.
The understanding that would help here is to know that, even if we are not conscious of it in our awareness, there is always a reason for everything we do.
We can either clarify that reason, bring it to consciousness (possibly simply by attempting to describe what it could "possibly be") or we can drop it and leave it unrecognized. But it is important for one to know that he/she always, always, always does things for a reason.
And part of the importance of realizing that is that it prevents one from engaging in "there are mysterious forces" causing me to say and do things, which pulls one out from being responsible and "at cause in the matter of life." And the ultimate result will often be to remain holding the other as being the one who is at fault and not recognizing what one is doing in the matter, not seeing the responsibility one has in this situation since he/she is completely innocent, claiming there is no reason...
We all are subject to getting caught up in the right/wrong games, with others or with ourselves (which seems illogical, but we do it). As discussed above, this is an automatic reaction to preserve status.
We humans, unless trained otherwise, engage in "emotional reasoning", drawing from some mysterious source deep within that one is convinced is "right". I just "feel" he is wrong - and that's it (I'm right). The problem is that it is impossible to "feel" a thought - one thinks a thought (and then could have a feeling resulting from that thought - but they do not occur simultaneously). This is often one of the first things taught to the client by a therapist, for it causes the false certainty to disappear so that one can start dealing with reality, as it is. This is dealt with in My Emotional Thinking/Reasoning Tells Me What Is Right - Wanna Bet?!!! and The Believing Brain. Essential "vocabulary" (aka "distinctions") to have: Expressing Feelings And Thoughts And Differentiating Between The Two...
IT'S THE OTHER PERSON'S FAULT
The sure sign of your playing the make wrong game is deciding that the other person is wrong. (Duh!) If you notice this, it is best to stop and rethink what is going on. And to separate the facts from the "made-ups" (fictions), which is also one of the corrections a therapist will try to teach. The process looks like this: What Happened - The Objective Description Of What Actually Occurred.
Versions of this are:
You're trying to make me perfect. (Picking on me, being critical, thinking "x")
You just want to win. (You mean, selfish person who doesn't care.)
You don't care...
You're oppositional, because.. (If you argue points, but don't always do opposite...)
You obviously don't want to...
I'm just your student (I'm the victim of you, helpless to stop you from opening my mouth and shoving all this information and teaching down my throat.
(You get the idea: Mostly mind reading, attribution, a victim posturing)
WHEN CAN IT BE APPROPRIATE TO DEFEND ONESELF?
Again, one has to be very, very careful when engaging in this, but it can be worth it. It is totally recommended that you gain the skill to do it well. That means to get the desired result and, of course, to avoid the undesired effect of the other person believing they are wrong or opposed (their beliefs are their responsibility, not yours per se, but you still get to experience the consequences of their behavior).
So... it is appropriate to defend oneself when one can expect a good result from it (or prevent a bad consequence). In order to get a good result, it is best to do it skillfully, of course.
But the question of whether to start, given the potential cost, is based on costs versus benefits - which is of course the basis for all good decision-making.
If you are involved with another person who will affect your income, then a good persuasive argument for your competence and integrity is probably appropriate.
If you are involved in a relationships where you are accused of having a trait that the other person seems to consider to negatively affect his/her being able to be in a relationship with you, then it could be worth it.
If a person accuses you of trying to make him/her feel stupid or trying to prove the other is stupid and the person is likely to hold that idea and make the other person wrong for it or to feel that he/she has to defend herself, that could potentially destroy the relationship. In essence, the person is probably going to hold the other person as being a "bad" person, at least in terms of the relationship. The person is likely to be operating from a victim position (it's the other person's fault, not mine), which creates games that end up being deadly or at least harmful to the relationship. The person feeling stupid might recall the famous Eleanor Roosevelt comment, in regard to the absurdity of believing that someone else of something else outside of one "causes" a person's feeling, "No one can make you feel inferior (without your consent)." I separated out the ending, to make the point that "no one can make you feel" anything (outside of a physical contact). (Read the basic psychological tenet that "beliefs cause emotions, not people or circumstances" in The Vital Skills Of Emotion Management.)
Be perfectly clear here that both parties are still responsible for all outcomes (responding in the highest positively effecting way) even if one person is "more" the cause in the matter - in the world of reality there is no "more" (no concept of more), there is only the result that occurs, period!
THE SOLUTION TO THE DILEMMA
Set some clear rules. And of course realize that where this will be violated, especially if the other person is emotionally charged and less higher brain engaged. And, as such, this means that you are always responsible for disengaging and not continuing the "battle."
The rules, of course, might look something like this:
1. We will not discuss "x" subject.
2. When one of us is getting upset, we stop. If it is something that should be continued to resolution, then just take a "time out" until the ability to have a higher brain conversation returns. If it is something that does not merit completion, then we just stop the conversation and do something else.
3. Stop discussing or arguing the details and just express what is true for you and how you care what the other person thinks. "I want you to know that in no way shape or form am I trying to make you feel stupid. I want you to know that because I don't want you to feel bad. And, of course, I am concerned because I want our relationship to go well. I value it and I want you to think well of me...."