In this new article, you will find out how to argue effectively and productively.
Despite our attempts to avoid it, we all argue sometimes. Arguing with loved ones, co-workers, friends, or even just strangers in cyberspace can be stressful and repressive.
Therefore, it’s in your best interest to understand how to handle this situation, to know tips and tricks for defuse and negotiate your way through an argument.
So much pain, stress, and confusion can be removed from our lives if we learn to have better discussions.
The first and most important step is to stop arguing, and begin discussing. Afterward, remember to be as clear as possible, and to practice kindness and understanding.
Give the other person the benefit of the doubt, be willing to forgive and compromise.
You may not like to argue, but you should still strive to be better. Much improvement in your preaching will only come with time and practice, but by keeping these 31 things in mind you can make real progress in your relationships and disagreements with others.
How to Debate Effectively and Productively:
1. Stop Arguing, Start Discussing
It may seem counterintuitive, but the best way to deal with an argument is not to argue. By not arguing, I mean avoid verbal warfare at all costs.
Don’t enter into a discussion with the idea that the other side of the argument has to see that you are right no matter what.
Come to the table, so to speak, ready to have an honest and polite discussion with others. Try to move beyond the idea of ”winning” or “losing” an argument.
Start seeing your conversation partner as just a partner. You are partners in the shared search for truth, not enemies.
2. Be Prepared To Change Your Mind
Being willing to have an honest conversation means being willing to change your mind.
The problem with looking at a discussion/argument only in win/lose terms is that it implies that if you learn, you lose.
If your dialogue partner shows you that your reasoning or evidence is flawed, you have a chance to learn something.
But you will not learn anything if you think that losing your argument means losing, or is something to be ashamed of.
3. Define Your Terms
The philosopher Voltaire said, “If you wish to speak to me, first define your terms.” This is sound advice.
Have you ever been in a situation where you seemed to disagree with someone, but they really just used a different word than you used?
This happens all the time, so it is vital to define your terms.
Begin by saying “When I say This, I mean the Right Definition.” It may seem difficult to do this, but it will save you quite a lot of time in the long run by not arguing with someone over definitions.
Early in the conversation, avoid misunderstandings by defining your terms.
4. Really Listen
It often happens that when people talk to us, we do not really listen.
Instead, we consider what we’re going to say in response, or consider something as irrelevant as what we’re going to have for lunch.
Try to be fully present in the conversation, listen to your partner and provide him your full attention.
If you do not listen to them, you run the risk of misunderstanding them, creating unnecessary confusion.
Next, how can you convince someone of another viewpoint if you do not really understand their perspective?
Active listening will make you better at persuasion, reduce confusion, and be polite to begin with.
5. Restate Or Repeat Their Position
As soon as you hear someone’s opinion on something, you have possibly already thought of ways to dismantle their argument and prove yourself right.
Stop. Do not do it.
Instead, take a moment to actually digest their argument and then restate it as you understand it.
Philosopher Daniel Dennett recommends that you try to repeat it in a way that’s so clear and concise that they say, “Wow, I wish I thought I said it that way!”
Because it helps ensure each side of the argument are on the same page. We all have moments where we must say, “That’s not what I said at all! What I mean is…”
Don’t do it to other people.
Instead, make sure you completely understand their point before moving on.
This will save you time as you won’t get caught up in misunderstandings, and will earn you points with the other person (conversation partner) by showing them that you are really listening to them.
6. Understand Them, Get Into Their Heads
We often fail to convince others because we focus on what convinced us and then force those reasons onto them.
We take the reasons we have for a belief (or the reasons we tell ourselves), and then assume that those reasons will convince someone else.
But your dialogue partner is not you. They think differently and have different values.
If you want to convince them, you need to understand them.
Try to understand their beliefs, values and thought processes. Ask yourself what would convince you if you were them.
You need to adapt your argument according to their world view if you want to be persuasive.
7. Understand Yourself, Ask What Your Goals Are
Take a moment before starting an argument to ask yourself what your goals are.
If you don’t have a clear reason for wanting something, how do you hope to communicate that reason to others?
Ask yourself what you want from this conversation, think about the problems you have and what steps need to be taken to solve them.
If your partner never helps with the housework, then your goal is to convince them that they should.
When you realize that a lack of help at work is causing you frustration, you can communicate that frustration to your partner.
8. Choose Your Battle
Find out which arguments you really need to have.
If you try to argue about every petty trifle or injustice, it will be considered normal for you to voice your dissent.
Your words will then have less impact when you’re actually bringing up important issues, and more than that nobody likes someone who is constantly negative. Constantly fighting will stress you out too, of course.
9. Remain Calm During the Discussion
Do you like being scolded? No, almost nobody does.
If you feel the urge to start yelling and screaming, calm down and step away from the argument for a while. Take a deep breath if you feel yourself getting agitated, continuing the discussion in anger will only make things worse.
10. Don’t insult
This is one that seems reasonable, but many people still need to be reminded. Do not use ridicule or insults.
First, insults don’t provide any real reason or evidence, so they won’t be as effective if your goal is to convince someone of your point of view.
In fact, the exact opposite will happen.
Insults tend to put people on the defensive and make you appear immature, increasing the likelihood that your argument will be dismissed out of hand.
11. Make It Personal
You shouldn’t get personal by insulting someone, but you can get personal through personal anecdotes.
Telling your partner a personal story with moving images and phrases can open them up to persuasion.
Creating a narrative that appeals to their empathy or compassion can be a very effective tactic. Note that personal narrative shouldn’t be your only argument.
A personal story can describe the situation, but you have to back it up with real evidence and sound reasons.
12. Talk To Yourself Using “I”
You may be tempted to criticize others and put the words in their mouths, but refrain from doing so.
Try to speak only to yourself using “I”, such as “I feel upset because…”. “I” statements aren’t blaming, all you’re doing is communicating how you feel.
This makes the other person feel less attacked, which helps prevent the situation from escalating.
13. Overcome the Real Argument
Arguments are often exacerbated by the fact that one side is not really dealing with the other side’s position, but with a caricature of their position.
In terms of logical fallacy, this is known as the Strawman (1). This refers to twisting someone’s argument into a more beatable version, but that’s not what that person is actually saying.
Doing this is not only disingenuous, but guaranteed to provoke anger and disdain from the other side of the argument.
Don’t build a straw man, deal with their real argument.
14. Give The Benefit Of The Doubt
When exchanges are heated, there is a tendency to assume the worst in people, perhaps that they are willfully ignoring or deceiving.
But in general most simple people believe they are right and act according to their own sense of ethics; they are not consciously trying to undermine you.
This isn’t to say that sometimes people have bad intentions, but it is good practice to start by assuming the best and capitalizing on the doubt.
Allowing paranoia or insecurity to manifest itself by accusing people of malicious intent will close the conversation by turning the other person against your argument.
We want people to give us the benefit of the doubt and think for the best, do your best to reply.
15. Ask Questions
Asking questions can be very effective in advancing the dialogue.
The philosopher Socrates developed a questioning method to investigate problems and uncover assumptions.
Using the Socratic questioning method offers at least two advantages.
Firstly, it reveals to you the thought process of the other person and secondly, it makes your partner examine their own assumptions and beliefs.
For example: “How do you think he feels?” “How do you know it is true?” “Why do you think so?”
Instead of telling people what you think or trying to tell them how to think, you can instead ask them to engage in self-reflection and let them work it out if there’s a problem with their point of view.
16. Acknowledge Their Feelings
If you were angry or frustrated by something, wouldn’t you want other people to admit it?
A simple acknowledgment of your partner’s feelings can open them up or defuse an argument.
Note that admitting someone’s feelings is not the same as agreeing with those feelings.
If you feel the feelings are unjustifiable, you can explain it to others but understand that they experience those feelings regardless of what you think of them.
17. Willing to Compromise
If you can’t convince the other side of your point of view, you may have to compromise.
If neither side is willing to give an inch in the argument, no solution will be reached. You can’t stop your life and refuse to move on until you get what you want.
It’s important to be willing to compromise, and get the same from your partner.
Try to set reasonable terms for a compromise that you both can agree on. The terms don’t have to be the same, but as a sign of good faith they often are.
The most important thing is that both of you can live on terms, and those terms are complied with.
18. Do Your Research
If you want to convince someone, you need to have a reasoned position backed up by good evidence.
You also need to anticipate their response and have a counter to their argument ready. This involves researching both sides of your argument, both the pros and cons to your theory or personal point of view.
The more you know about the topic, the better off you will be.
19. Know When You Hit a Wall
You have to be able to recognize when the conversation has stalled and neither side is going to reassure the other.
If you’ve both presented your best arguments and now seem to be discussing the same thing in one round, it’s time to end the discussion.
Once you reach this point, de-escalating if necessary and then politely closing the argument will allow the two of you to get through your day and save both of you time.
20. Don’t Build an Armory
When you’re upset, you may feel like you want to vent all your complaints at once, but this is counterproductive.
Swept away problem after problem can seem aggressive, and tossing too many issues into an argument will only lead to confusion. It will also increase the chances of being tracked down with irrelevant topics.
Tackle one problem at a time to make progress, usually the most pressing and relevant issues.
21. Stay On Topic, Avoid Derailment
Similar to the above, try to stay on topic at all times.
You may be tempted to bring up another topic as it seems related to the topic at hand. Unless it’s really important, don’t do this.
Pinballing back and forth between topics is a great way to ensure no actual progress is made.
Another issue is that even though you may see a connection between the two issues, other people are not guaranteed to see it and may think you are trying to distract or derail the argument.
22. Use good, clear examples
Remember that part of making a convincing argument is illustrating your point with concrete examples.
You will have an easier time convincing someone to take your view if you can paint a picture in their mind. If you’re trying to convince someone not to go to a restaurant, remind them of the time they got food poisoning in great detail.
Obscure and undefined examples don’t help, make it clear.
23. Use Metaphors, Slide the Analogies
When trying to explain a difficult concept to someone, use metaphors to explain it in a way they can understand. Refers to a concept with which they are familiar.
Say if you’re talking to a mechanic, you might explain how computer parts interact through comparisons to a machine.
Analogies are also important to note because they imply equality between two things, even though the two concepts may not be equivalent.
If you’re in an argument and someone presents an analogy, but you suspect the analogy is flawed, than try to shift the analogy to see if the principles of the argument still hold.
24. Avoid Absolutes
The world is a complex place, very little in it is black or white.
Most issues have shades of gray, so debate avoiding absolutes. Using an absolute language will often just fail you.
If the other party can easily come up with a few examples that prove you wrong, you will look foolish and fail to convince the other party of your position.
25. Ask Them What It Takes To Change Their Mind
Only use this tactic if you feel like you’re hitting a wall in conversation, but it can be effective to ask the other person, “What would it take for you to change your mind?”
Asking them what evidence or argument is convincing will prompt them to reflect on their own position, will give you insight into their thought process, and reveal whether they are closed off to outside opinion.
If they respond that nothing will make them change their mind, they are closed off and you should end the conversation, going past this point is just a waste of your time.
26. Have Them Articulate Their Own Reasons
An effective persuasive tactic is to get others to voice their reasons for adopting your position.
If you can encourage thoughts to come from within the other person and not just from you telling them what to think, you will be more successful in your persuasion efforts.
For example, you could try asking “Do you see any problems with the position?” Or you can try asking them to help you understand why they have adopted the position they have, given the problems they have.
27. Avoid Logical Fallacy
When arguing, make sure your logic makes sense.
For example, don’t say that the other person can only choose to be for you or against you. That’s a false dichotomy and implies that your partner can’t choose the third option or be somewhere in between.
Similarly, as discussed above, the strawman is a type of fallacy that has nothing to do with the actual argument.
You can look up a list of common logical fallacies, and it is advisable to do so because using them will damage the credibility of the other person you are talking to.
28. Admit Your Own Bias
We all have our biases (2), and when involved in an argument, it’s hard to get past it.
If possible, admit your bias up front. If you admit your biases, your partner can help you track them down and rebuke you when you defend something irrationally.
Being intellectually honest will encourage others to be honest and admit their biases too.
29. De-escalate, Remind Them What’s Important
As you near the end of the argument, try to defuse the situation.
Calm yourself and calm others by speaking in a calm voice and suggesting that you leave the matter alone for now.
Remind them what’s important, maybe how much you care for each other if it’s a romantic partner, or that you should be able to work together if it’s a co-worker.
Thank them for being willing to talk to you.
30. Don’t Take It Home
If the argument in question is at work with a co-worker, take a moment to decompress and mentally leave the workplace squabbles.
Bringing home any lingering frustration means bringing it into your personal life, risking redirecting your frustrations on a housemate or significant other.
This is a surefire way to make life worse for everyone involved, so leave it at work.
31. Have Plans To Move On
Have a plan for re-establishing normalcy at the end of the day.
If it’s most important that you get to work with your co-workers, verbally agree that your disagreements won’t affect your work relationship.
Similarly, if the fight was with your partner, agree to still help around the house. Again, don’t hold a grudge.
Being passive-aggressive or taking your frustrations out on other people will only make things worse and cause more hurt feelings.
Get ready to move on.
Thank you for reading this article on how to argue effectively and productively. I actually hope that you take action on my advice. I wish you good luck and that I hope that its content has been a good help to you.