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Last Updated on December 17, 2019

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 April 6, 2020

    10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

    10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

    Most discussions on positively influencing others eventually touch on Dale Carnegie’s seminal work, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Written more than 83 years ago, the book touches on a core component of human interaction, building strong relationships. It is no wonder why.

    Everything that we do hinges on our ability to connect with others and formulate deep relationships. You cannot sell a house, buy a house, advance in most careers, sell a product, pitch a story, teach a course, etc. without building healthy relationships. Managers get the best results from their teams, not through brute force, but to careful appeals to their sensibilities, occasional withdrawals from the reservoir of respect they’ve built. Using these tactics, they can influence others to excellence, to productivity, and to success.

    Carnegie’s book is great. Of course, there are other resources too. Most of us have someone in our lives who positively influences us. The truth is positively influencing people is about centering the humanity of others. Chances are, you know someone who is really good at making others feel like stars. They can get you to do things that the average person cannot. Where the requests of others sound like fingernails on a chalkboard, the request from this special person sounds like music to your ears. You’re delighted to not only listen but also to oblige.

    So how to influence people in a positive way? Read on for tips.

    1. Be Authentic

    To influence people in a positive way, be authentic. Rather than being a carbon copy of someone else’s version of authenticity, uncover what it is that makes you unique.

    Discover your unique take on an issue and then live up to and honor that. Once of the reasons social media influencers are so powerful is that they have carved out a niche for themselves or taken a common issue and approached it from a novel or uncommon way. People instinctually appreciate people whose public persona matches their private values.

    Contradictions bother us because we crave stability. When someone professes to be one way, but lives contrary to that profession, it signals that they are confused or untrustworthy and thereby, inauthentic. Neither of these combinations bode well for positively influencing others.

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    2. Listen

    Growing up, my father would tell me to listen to what others said. He told me if I listened carefully, I would know all I needed to know about a person’s character, desires and needs.

    To positively influence others, you must listen to what is spoken and what is left unsaid. Therein lies the explanation for what people need in order to feel validated, supported and seen. If a person feels they are invisible, and unseen by their superiors, they are less likely to be positively influenced by that person.

    Listening meets a person’s primary need of validation and acceptance.

    Take a look at this guide on how to be a better listener: How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

    3. Become an Expert

    Most people are predisposed to listen to, if not respect, authority. If you want to positively influence others, become an authority in the area in which you seek to lead others. Research and read everything you can about the given topic, and then look for opportunities to put your education into practice.

    You can argue over opinions. You cannot argue, or it is unwise to argue, over facts and experts come with facts.

    4. Lead with Story

    From years of working in the public relations space, I know that personal narratives, testimonials and impact stories are incredibly powerful. But I never cease to be amazed with how effective a well-timed and told story can be.

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    If you want to influence people, learn to tell stories. Your stories should be related to the issue or concept you are discussing. They should be an analogy or metaphor that explains your topic in ordinary terms and in vivid detail. To learn more about how to tell powerful stories, and the ethics of storytelling, take a look at this article: How To Tell An Interesting Story In 4 Simple Steps

    5. Lead by Example

    It is incredibly inspiring to watch passionate, talented people at work or play. One of the reasons a person who is not an athlete can be in awe of athletic prowess is because human nature appreciates the extraordinary. When we watch the Olympics, Olympic trials, gymnastic competitions, ice skating, and other competitive sports, we can recognize the effort of people who day in and day out give their all. C

    ase in point: Simone Biles. The gymnast extraordinaire won her 6TH all-around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships after doing a triple double. She was the first woman to do so. Watching her gave me chills. Even non-gymnasts and non-competitive athletes can appreciate the talent required to pull off such a remarkable feat.

    We celebrate remarkable accomplishments and believe that their example is proof that we too can accomplish something great, even if it isn’t qualifying for the Olympics. To influence people in a positive way, we must lead by example, lead with intention and execute with excellence.

    6. Catch People Doing Good

    A powerful way to influence people in a positive way is to catch people doing good. Instead of looking for problems, look for successes. Look for often overlooked, but critically important things that your peers, subordinates and managers do that make the work more effective and more enjoyable.

    Once you catch people doing good, name and notice their contributions.

    7. Be Effusive with Praise

    It did not take me long to notice a remarkable trait of a former boss. He not only began and ended meetings with praise, but he peppered praise throughout the entire meeting. He found a way to celebrate the unique attributes and skills of his team members. He was able to quickly and accurately assess what people were doing well and then let them and their colleagues know.

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    Meetings were not just an occasion to go through a “To Do” list, they were opportunities to celebrate accomplishments, no matter how small they are.

    8. Be Kind Rather Than Right

    I am going to level with you; this one is tough. It is easy to get caught up in a cycle of proving oneself. For people who lack confidence, or people who prioritize the opinions of others, being right is important. The validation that comes with being perceived as “right” feeds one’s ego. But in the quest to be “right,” we can hurt other people. Once we’ve hurt someone by being unkind, it is much harder to get them to listen to what we’re trying to influence them to do.

    The antidote to influencing others via bullying is to prioritize kindness above rightness. You can be kind and still stand firm in your position. For instance, many people think that they need others to validate their experience. If a person does not see the situation you experienced in the way you see it, you get upset. But your experience is your experience.

    If you and your friends go out to eat and you get food poisoning, you do not need your friends to agree that the food served at the restaurant was problematic for you. Your own experience of getting food poisoning is all the validation you need. Therefore, taking time to be right is essentially wasted and, if you were unkind in seeking validation for your food-poison experience, now you’ve really lost points.

    9. Understand a Person’s Logical, Emotional and Cooperative Needs

    The Center for Creative Leadership has argued that the best way to influence others is to appeal to their logical, emotional and cooperative needs. Their logical need is their rational and educational need. Their emotional need is the information that touches them in a deeply personal manner. The cooperative need is understanding the level of cooperation various individuals need and then appropriately offering it.

    The trick with this system is to understand that different people need different things. For some people, a strong emotional appeal will outweigh logical explanations. For others, having an opportunity to collaborate will override emotional connection.

    If you know your audience, you will know what they need in order to be positively influenced. If you have limited information about the people whom you are attempting to influence, you will be ineffective.

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    10. Understand Your Lane

    If you want to positively influence others, operate from your sphere of influence. Operate from your place of expertise. Leave everything else to others. Gone are the days when being a jack of all trades is celebrated.

    Most people appreciate brands that understand their target audience and then deliver on what that audience wants. When you focus on what you are uniquely gifted and qualified to do, and then offer that gift to the people who need it, you are likely more effective. This effectiveness is attractive.

    You cannot positively influence others if you are more preoccupied by what others do well versus what you do well.

    Final Thoughts

    Influencing people is about centering your humanity. If you want to influence others positively, focus on the way you communicate and improve the relationship with yourself first.

    It’s hard to influence others if you’re still trying to figure out how to communicate with yourself.

    More Tips About Making Influence

    Featured photo credit: Wonderlane via unsplash.com

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