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How to Win an Argument – Dos, Don’ts and Sneaky Tactics

How to Win an Argument – 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.

So how to win an argument? Here are some general dos and don’ts to help you win arguments together with some sneaky tactics to be aware of.

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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.

Some Sneaky Ways to Consider

  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.

How to Have a Productive Argument

Besides the dos and don’ts from above, here’s an infographic that explains how to have a productive argument at work:[1]

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    The Bottom Line

    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.

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    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, humor is a highly effective tool so prepare some clever lines in advance.

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    More Tips on Conflicts Management

    Featured photo credit: Mimi Thian via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Paul Sloane

    Professional Keynote Speaker, Author, Innovation Expert

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    Last Updated on February 11, 2021

    Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

    Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

    How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

    Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

    The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

    Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

    Perceptual Barrier

    The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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    The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

    The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

    Attitudinal Barrier

    Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

    The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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    The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

    Language Barrier

    This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

    The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

    The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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    Emotional Barrier

    Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

    The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

    The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

    Cultural Barrier

    Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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    The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

    The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

    Gender Barrier

    Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

    The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

    The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

    And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

    Reference

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