Maybe it’s your die hard conservative uncle, or maybe it’s your vegan friend who calls everyone who disagrees with him a murderer. The point is, everyone knows someone they just can’t convince to see their way. Dealing with these kinds of people is ridiculously frustrating!
For many of us, when we’re talking to these people we’re stuck wondering — how the hell do we get them to see reason? If there were some easy ways to convince them wouldn’t we have stumbled upon it by now? What if we could easily and compassionately show people that maybe they’re not as smart as they think they are…and that, in fact, their views are less developed than they might otherwise believe? Well — turns out that after all this time — there is a way.
Here are the four steps to follow when trying to convince others:
1. Ask your opponent to explain the HOW and not the WHY
In a recent article on Business Insider, Drake Baer explained that the best way to make a debate opponent agree with you is to simply ask them how they would implement their views. The reason this works is because when people really have to take the time to think through their beliefs, then many of the “less thought-out ideas” become obvious, and are a lot easier to prove wrong. As they continue to talk they’ll increasingly realize that “Oh wait… I don’t know as much as I thought I did about this topic” and they will often adopt more moderate views.
In some ways this idea seems kind of natural to me — after all, isn’t proving to your opponent the weakness of their foundational beliefs a key aspect to any argument? What this method does well is that it gives you a single effective question to force your opponent to show the logic behind their thinking. It helps to elevate both sides of the argument and gives everyone a chance to learn something.
2. Agree with your opponent
In my opinion, this partially ties in with a really interesting idea that Dale Carnegie touches on in his classic text How To Win Friends And Influence People. In the classic book he says that in order to convince someone in an argument you have to agree with your opponent. In some ways that is really just a continuation on the previous train of thought, because after all — if you agree with your opponent on a basic thing — then they are essentially obligated to figure out how the logic of their next point ties into the previous notion. Ultimately, as they start to further think things through they will be forced to entertain more moderate views, and become more open to seeing your side of things…unless of course you’ve been outmatched!
The thing is — arguments usually become more radicalized when people begin to disagree. The more people disagree, the more they end up becoming convinced that they were right in the first place. By agreeing with your opponent and showing that you are not a monster who refuses to think things through, you are helping to establish your credibility. Once you have established credibility, then your opponent has to listen to you and pick apart what you have to say — giving you a chance to prove once and for all why you are right and they are wrong.
3. Present actionable points
This point may seem obvious at first but I think its apparent obviousness speaks to how hard it is to get right. In many ways this links right back into the first point — if you don’t know how you want to do whatever you are arguing for then your argument is essentially invalid. Beyond that though, having actionable points is a great way to convince people to see your way because it shows that you have researched the topic and know what you are talking about. Clearly, that kind of legitimacy is essential if you want to have any sort of success in proving a point.
One thing I’ve found is that it’s better when you can find actions that have worked in similar situations. For example — let’s say you are a supporter of accepting immigrants to the U.S., and your opponent is a supporter of Donald Trump, and is trying to defend the idea of building some sort of wall to keep immigrants out. You could bring up the fact that similar attempts at sequestering a population led to extreme strife and ended up costing the state far more money tan they ever thought it could. The point being — knowing your shit is essential if you want to have actionable points people will respect.
After all, would you listen to the argument of someone who didn’t have any?
4. Be careful and respectful
To pull off most of these notions you need to have your own arguments properly set up. After all, even if you can prove that your opponent’s argument is invalid, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your side is any better! Far too often I’ve seen arguments crumble into people just hurling insults because they lost the desire to be careful with their points. Building off previous points, remember the following: If your opponent catches you off guard, don’t try and dismiss them. Rather, thank them for it and see if you can amend your position to include the flaw in your reasoning. If you prove that you can be reasonable your opponent will respect you all the more.
Let’s be real — arguing can be fun; many of you probably were in your high school debate club. It can be a good way to exercise your mind, but within all of us I think there is some desire to win. And by following this last point you can make sure that even if you don’t win, everybody will have a good time. No one wants to go in an argument that is intentionally hurtful or divisive. By following these points, you will gradually convince your adversaries to side with you while making sure that they don’t end up hating you — or becoming all the more obsessed with their own views.