How To Win Any Argument

Discussion in 'Soap Box' started by Prinnctopher's Belt, Feb 20, 2011.

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  1. Prinnctopher's Belt

    Prinnctopher's Belt Antiquities Friend SF Supporter

    “If you argue and rankle and contradict, you may achieve a temporary victory - sometimes; but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent's good will."
    - Benjamin Franklin

    What is the best way to win an argument? The answer: not to argue at all. Once you begin arguing, pride tends to kick in, and the possibility for meaningful discourse to take place gets knocked out the window.

    Dale Carnegie writes in his book, How to Win Friends & Influence People:

    "Why prove to a man he is wrong? Is that going to make him like you? Why not let him save face? Why argue with him? You can't win an argument, because if you lose, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it. Why? You will feel fine. But what about him? You have made him feel inferior, you hurt his pride, insulted his intelligence, his judgment, and his self-respect, and he'll resent your triumph. That will make him strike back, but it will never make him want to change his mind. A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still."

    Below are nine tips which may help you avoid arguing, and engage in meaningful, positive, and productive discussions with others.

    1. Never directly tell someone they are wrong

    Have you ever tried this? How has it worked?

    Do you like being told your opinion is wrong?

    "If a man makes a statement that you think, or know, is wrong, begin by saying, "Well, I thought otherwise, but I may be wrong. I frequently am. Let's examine the facts." You'll never get into trouble by admitting you may be wrong. [That will] stop all arguments and inspire the other fellow to be just as fair and broad-minded as you are. It'll make him want to admit that he, too, may be wrong.

    We sometimes find ourselves changing our minds without any resistance or heavy emotion, but if we are told we are wrong, we resent the imputation and harden our hearts. We are incredibly heedless in the formation of our beliefs, but find ourselves filled with an illicit passion for them when anyone proposes to rob us of their companionship. It is not the ideas themselves that are dear to us, but our self-esteem which is threatened. We like to continue to believe what we have been accustomed to accept as true and the resentment aroused when doubt is cast upon any of our assumptions leads us to seek every manner of excuse for clinging to it. The result is that most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do.

    When we are wrong, we may admit it to ourselves. And if we are handled gently and tactfully, we may admit it to others and even take pride in our frankness and broadmindedness. But not if someone else is trying to ram the fact down our throat." (Carnegie)

    2. Avoid your initial reaction

    When someone tells you their opinion, a thought will come to mind. Before you turn that thought into words or action, stop. Think. Breathe. Count to three (in your head). Do not act on instinct or habit, but instead, rely on your reasoning.

    3. Build bridges, do not burn them - be friendly

    "Give your opponents a chance to talk. Let them finish. Do not resist, defend or debate. This only raises barriers. Try to build bridges of understanding. Don't build higher barriers of misunderstanding." (Carnegie)

    Do not view the person you're talking with as an "opponent". Look for points where you agree, focus on them, and put less attention on areas where you disagree.

    4. Do not damage pride, especially in company of others

    "I have no right to say or do anything that diminishes a man in his own eyes. What matters is not what I think of him, but what he thinks of himself. Hurting a man in his dignity is a crime."
    - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

    5. Be honest, admit mistakes

    If someone manages to prove your point wrong, admit to the mistake. If you hold on to a false belief knowing it is invalid, you will damage your credibility along with the chance of having a productive, meaningful, and civil conversation.

    6. Appreciate the other person taking time to talk with you

    "Anyone who takes the time to disagree with you is interested in the same things you are. Think of them as people who really want to help you, and you may turn your opponents into friends." (Carnegie)

    7. Consider alternative perspectives, be open-minded

    Listen objectively. Perhaps the disagreement can be your opportunity to be corrected before you make a serious mistake.

    8. Control your temper, do not be angry, do not criticize

    "If you come at me with fists doubled, I promise you that mine will also double; but if you come to me and say, 'Let us sit down and take counsel together, and if we differ from each other, understand why it is that we differ, just what the points at issue are,' we will presently find that we are not so far apart after all, that the points on which we differ are few and that if we only have patience and the desire to get together, we will get together."
    - Woodrow Wilson

    9. If necessary, postpone the discussion

    Sometimes the best course of action is to take a break and consider what has been discussed up until that point. Use the time to ask yourself some questions: could the other person be correct? somewhat correct? does their position have any validity? where do you have common ground? where do you disagree?

    “You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him discover it.”
    - Galileo Galilei
  2. Acy

    Acy Mama Bear - TLC, Common Sense Staff Member Safety & Support

    I just wish everyone played by those rules. It seems that things get nasty when some people are ready to "discuss" and others want to "fight."

    Thanks for posting those...Great food for thought (and hopefully we'll all listen and learn)!
  3. Chargette

    Chargette Well-Known Member

    Prinnctopher's Belt, your post is a great contribution to having a better soap box forum. Thank you very much.

    Administrators, I vote this post be made a sticky note.
  4. Mikeintx

    Mikeintx Well-Known Member

    Good post.
  5. Lovecraft

    Lovecraft Well-Known Member

    I like the ideas in that post a whole but this confuses me; why would you do this? Acknowledge agreements - do that. To focus on them, though, is to engage in a useless behaviour. To debate disagreements civilly is nice as a way to provoke though but what is gained by focusing more on the agreed points?
  6. Tim.

    Tim. SF Emoti-King

    Ah, seems like pretty good advice for life to me. Many things I could work on! I like the Galileo quote at the end and find myself more and more agreeing with the sentiment expressed. Thanks for posting this.

    I think I see what you're getting at with your question here. But I think that the article, despite the title 'How To Win Any Argument,' is more about avoiding an argument. The idea then being, as I see it, that you actually will be more productive working with people that agree with you than arguing against people that disagree. Of course, I didn't write the article or the sources referenced, so that's just my opinion.
  7. Chargette

    Chargette Well-Known Member

    I think one of the positives that can come out of this approach is that we don't sell ourselves short by making enemies out of each other.
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