Disagreements are normal part of any kind of relationship, whether it is social, work or personal. When we don’t share the same views with someone, we try to convince or persuade people to our point of view. But sometimes, these disagreements can turn into ugly spats or arguments. Some can even spiral out of control into full-blown conflicts if not handled well. And such arguments can be especially frustrating if the person involved always tries to prove him or herself right. Knowing how to strengthen your argument on the other will help you to win persuasive debates.
We are bound to come across people with whom we disagree with at some point in time. When arguments arise, different relationships require different approaches to deal with. What’s appropriate for your friend or a family member may not be the best for dealing with those that arise in a workplace or in business. And it is also not always easy to win over an argument or prevent it. When emotions run high it may ultimately end up in a conflict that can be difficult to resolve. However, any argument can be turned into healthy discussion or debate if one is skilled enough to handle them productively.
“Be able to defend your arguments in a rational way. Otherwise all you have is opinion.” — Marilyn vos SavantTweet
What makes a successful argument
Whenever there is clash of thoughts and ideas, arguments or disagreements always touch our deepest emotions. So, we tend to quickly go on to defending such situations or attack someone’s ideas in most irrational ways. Sometimes we think we are providing an alternative on certain issue when we are only providing assertions. This only puts the other on an edge or into fight-or-flight mode rather than finding for more amicable ways. It doesn’t make much a difference in having good ideas, if you aren’t good enough to persuade others of their value using reason.
To make an argument more convincing, you should move beyond just making an assertion. It should be backed up with reasons and evidence for establishing whether your claim is true or false. You must offer statements which support your claims for which you entered into an argument in the first place. At times, getting your point across can be quite frustrating if people are overly sensitive towards a particular issue or particularly vulnerable. They may perceive it as overly threatening.
Furthermore, if one is prone to taking things personally, it may lead to blaming, raised voices, proving and disproving. To make a successful argument, you should be able to take your opponent’s views to their logical conclusion. And to do so, it is important to respect the other person’s perspective, no matter how irrational it may be. When people feel their self-worth validated in some way, they tend to be more receptive to contrary views or information.
How to strengthen your stance in an argument
The difficult part in an argument is not to defend one’s opinion, but rather to know it.Andre Maurois
Even though it is important to win an argument, you cannot always make it as a purpose. Instead being aware of some useful tactics to get your point across in order to be persuasive or to understand your opponent’s perspectives can make your arguments more productive. Productive arguments have the potential to spur growth and challenge limiting beliefs of everyone involved. Here are certain ways to win an argument or strengthen your stance.
When it comes to your stance in an argument,
Don’t defend, use facts.
Using facts makes your argument more convincing and trustworthy rather than to defend your position. Opinions are good when you are in a friendly conversation, but when in argument, they are of little to no use. While how you feel and what you think about certain things is certainly valid, but may not be the best in winning an argument. On the other hand, facts or evidence are hard to refute. For instance, use facts that are gathered from surveys, visuals, or quotes from relevant sources to give your ideas weight and further can be useful in making a successful argument.
Qualifying your argument with evidence will make your rival’s intent in breaking down your point of view. However, preparing for a fact-based confrontation isn’t always possible because arguments may pop up any time, but structuring your argument with clear evidence always make it difficult for the other to win over you.
Consider perspectives of the other side
It is not enough to dwell only on the strengths of your own position. Be attentive to the reasons someone might disagree with you. It is not always right to think that your opponent is always wrong. Just because their stand is against yours, it doesn’t mean they aren’t correct. Considering alternative like for instance, could they be correct this time? can lead you to focus on to see the truth rather than blinding you to your past experiences or emotions.
Being on defensive always, you miss out on understanding the other side completely. You are more likely to strengthen your stance if you too persuade your opponent to take an outside perspective, if he or she is emotionally charged up. This way, you both can see things more objectively and listen to alternative viewpoints. Encouraging this shift in perspective should make the other more receptive to the facts you are presenting, rather than react with knee-jerk dismisssls.
Let go of the need to be always right.
In order to win an argument, we always try to convince people that we are right and they are wrong. But such an approach is flawed and rarely works. Many times, we are overconfident about what we think we know. We often convince ourselves that we understand how something works when in reality we don’t.
Acknowledge the limitations of your position if any. Don’t feel bad about conceding if you feel your claim is not worth enough. After all, the outcome of argument should be to hear the validity in the ideas and opinions of others. Be prepared to concede a good point. It is okay to disagree with the thoughts or opinions expressed by other people. But that doesn’t give you the right to deny any sense they might make. Instead of opposing every point for the sake of it, learn to agree to a valid point. However, you can always outweigh it with s different argument to make it reasonable.
Use direct language
You can’t be persuasive if you cannot communicate clearly or if the other person doesn’t understand you. To ensure that your point isn’t getting lost amidst other unrelated things, keep it simple and direct. Sometimes, it is just enough to make yourself heard. Explaining your grievance can be more than enough to persuade an opponent to take your side.
Avoid flooding the other side with facts as it can be overwhelming in making decisions. Instead just give them enough information as a means to convince themselves. Research based studies show that mirroring an opponent’s stance, keeping eye contact and lowering your voice can improve your stance to great extent. Avoid using “but” and “however” whenever possible as it communicates that you don’t really care about their position. Instead use “and” to make it sound more positive.
When it comes to other’s stance,
Ask open-ended questions.
Asking questions is a full-proof way of winning an argument as it gives you a better understanding, rather than just relying on your own assumptions. This also keeps you in control of the discussion and can make your opponent search for answers. Open-ended questions challenge their point like for instance, what evidence do they have, or how can they prove their concerns are legitimate, or what validates their point.
Asking for visual evidence, list of pros and cons or review of points raised can lead to understanding the other’s perspective or what led up to the disagreement. Such questions allow you to know more information, including feelings and attitudes that improve the understanding. They transform the conversation from feeling based exchange to one based on actual information or knowledge.
We all come across people who appear to have less understanding of certain things, but talk with the utmost confidence and conviction. However, if put to the test, their explanations are vague and incoherent. Such motivated reasoning creates false premises, spoken with confidence but with minimal understanding of the issue at hand. Challenging such weaknesses and flaws in their argument can help you turn their argument back on them.
- Ask for more detail. This can reveal the shallowness of other’s argument and to find inconsistencies if any. Simply ask the person trying to convince you of something to explain how it would work. If they can explain why they support or oppose a particular point, why they are correct and how things would work.
- Try and distinguish. When your opponent tends to generalise people, things or situations, offer the difference or contrast to show how they are not same.
- Premise. Ask for the premise or the basis of their argument. If you find your opponent complaining about something, you can ask them what is the basis of their belief or argument.
- Look for faulty logic. If your opponent is displaying his or her weakness by simply saying something that makes no sense, say that their logic is faulty and then explain why you are right and how they are completely wrong.
- Check for assertions. When your opponent is proclaiming an opinion as a fact or using an emotion instead of logic, you can accuse them of making an assertion.
Listen and not only persuade.
Many times, we focus more on what we are about to say and ignore what our opponents are saying. Such arguments get based more on assumptions or lead to misunderstandings. Listening carefully to other’s stance makes you aware of their position and sometimes you may find inconsistencies in their argument. To listen actively is to pay attention and acknowledge their feelings. Even if you disagree, dismissing, or ignoring only escalates the situation. Validation of each other’s feelings makes everyone less defensive. Listening lets you narrow down to things that other didn’t mean, or wasn’t intended. This way, you get a chance to counter them with your factual evidence and statements.
Two factors that strengthen your arguments further:
- Emotional regulation. When you let your emotions interfere, you will be no longer cognitively capable of presenting your argument successfully. It is important to maintain your confidence if you feel you have a strong position. Being anxious or responding in an agitated way to an opponent’s claim may be interpreted as weakness. Also, walking away or using harsh tone or words will only make it worse. If you feel people have perceived your argument in a wrong way, assume responsibility to communicate clearly by keeping your emotions in check.
- Being compassionate. Being hostile or rude to your opponent in an argument only leads to close-mindedness. Reminding yourself of purpose of your argument rather than to signal your superiority, you are much more likely to make yourself heard, even if this means you are telling them some hard truths. When you strive to be compassionate, you demonstrate others that you value connection with them over your need to be right. Being compassionate makes the other consider your point of view and open up to the limits of his or her own perspectives.
Questions for self-reflection
What are your strategies when it comes to win an argument?
How effective are your approaches in actually influencing others towards your position when in an argument?
Do you always try to convince your opponent that you are right and they are wrong Or Do you try to correct your stance?
How often do you choose to win the argument at all costs over focusing on facts or evidence?
Do you listen to understand or to respond during an heated conversation?
How often do you base debates or arguments on mutually beneficial outcomes ?
What strategies can you adopt to make arguments more productive starting from today?
Avoiding arguments only leads to bottled up frustrations and makes it hard to innovate or build good relationships, be it work or personal. You can’t win all the arguments. But you can always intend to strengthen your stance to put your point forward and turn it into a productive discussion. It is important to remember that to keep your relationships, you must intend to defuse an argument rather than winning. And to do this, you need to learn how to argue well and keep disagreements from spiralling out of control. Next time around, use the above strategies to strengthen your argument and aim to make them into productive discussions.
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