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How to win Arguments – Dos, Don’ts and Sneaky Tactics

How to win Arguments – Dos, Don’ts and Sneaky Tactics

There is not much point in having brilliant ideas if we cannot persuade people of their value. Persuasive debaters can win arguments using the force of their reason and by the skillful deployment of many handy techniques. Here are some general dos and don’ts to help you win arguments together with some sneaky tactics to be aware of.

Do:

  1. Stay calm. Even if you get passionate about your point you must stay cool and in command of your emotions. If you lose your temper – you lose.
  2. Use facts as evidence for your position. Facts are hard to refute so gather some pertinent data before the argument starts. Surveys, statistics, quotes from relevant people and results are useful arguments to deploy in support of your case.
  3. Ask questions. If you can ask the right questions you can stay in control of the discussion and make your opponent scramble for answers. You can ask questions that challenge his point, ‘What evidence do you have for that claim?’ You can ask hypothetical questions that extrapolate a trend and give your opponent a difficulty, ‘What would happen if every nation did that?’ Another useful type of question is one that calmly provokes your foe, ‘What is about this that makes you so angry?’
  4. Use logic. Show how one idea follows another. Build your case and use logic to undermine your opponent.
  5. Appeal to higher values. As well as logic you can use a little emotion by appealing to worthy motives that are hard to disagree with, ‘Shouldn’t we all be working to make the world better and safer for our children?’
  6. Listen carefully. Many people are so focused on what they are going to say that they ignore their opponent and assume his arguments. It is better to listen carefully. You will observe weaknesses and flaws in his position and sometimes you will hear something new and informative!
  7. Be prepared to concede a good point. Don’t argue every point for the sake of it. If your adversary makes a valid point then agree but outweigh it with a different argument. This makes you looked reasonable. ‘I agree with you that prison does not reform prisoners. That is generally true but prison still acts effectively as a deterrent and a punishment.’
  8. Study your opponent. Know their strengths, weaknesses, beliefs and values. You can appeal to their higher values. You can exploit their weaknesses by turning their arguments back on them.
  9. Look for a win-win. Be open-minded to a compromise position that accommodates your main points and some of your opponent’s. You cannot both win in a boxing match but you can both win in a negotiation.

Don’t:

  1. Get personal. Direct attacks on your opponent’s lifestyle, integrity or honesty should be avoided. Attack the issue not the person. If the other party attacks you then you can take the high ground e.g.’ I am surprised at you making personal attacks like that. I think it would be better if we stuck to the main issue here rather than maligning people.’
  2. Get distracted. Your opponent may try to throw you off the scent by introducing new and extraneous themes. You must be firm. ‘That is an entirely different issue which I am happy to discuss later. For the moment let’s deal with the major issue at hand.’
  3. Water down your strong arguments with weak ones. If you have three strong points and two weaker ones then it is probably best to just focus on the strong. Make your points convincingly and ask for agreement. If you carry on and use the weaker arguments then your opponent can rebut them and make your overall case look weaker.

Low, sneaky ways that some people use to win arguments:

  1. Use punchy one-liners. You can sometimes throw your opponent out of his stride by interjecting a confident, concise cliché. Here are some good ones:
    • That begs the question.
    • That is beside the point.
    • You’re being defensive.
    • Don’t compare apples and oranges.
    • What are your parameters?
  2. Ridicule and humiliate your opponent. This can be very effective in front of an audience but will never win over the opponent himself.
  3. Deliberately provoke your adversary. Find something that makes them angry and keep wheedling away on this point until they lose their temper and so the argument.
  4. Distract. Throw in diversions which deflect the other person from their main point.
  5. Exaggerate your opponent’s position. Take it way beyond its intended level and then show how ridiculous and unreasonable the exaggerated position is.
  6. Contradict confidently. Vigorously denounce each of your opponent’s arguments as fallacious but just select one or two that you can defeat to prove the point. Then assume that you have won.

Remember that an argument between two people is very different from a debate in front of an audience. In the first you are trying to win over the other person so look for ways of building consensus and do not be belligerent in making your points. In front of an audience you can use all sorts of theatrical and rhetorical devices to bolster your case and belittle your adversary. In these circumstances humour is a highly effective tool so prepare some clever lines in advance.

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Paul Sloane

Professional Keynote Speaker, Author, Innovation Expert

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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