Arguments don't have to be hurtful, but they can easily turn that way if you're not careful. Luckily, there are several techniques and tricks you can try, which will allow you to get your point across without turning the discussion into a full-on fight. The ability to argue effectively is actually a great skill to learn, and can come in handy in a wide variety of situations, giving you the confidence to stand up for yourself and what you believe in.
1. Arguing Positively
Play fair: Odds are you know exactly how to push the other person's buttons, but it's important to resist if you want to have a civil argument. Resolve that no matter how upset he or she makes you, you will not say the one thing you know would push the argument over the edge.
Respect the other person: Respect what the other person has to say. An argument has to be two-sided; if you fail to hear the other side out, they will return the gesture and not listen to you. Refuting a person's opinion is fine, but refusing to hear it makes a debate pointless.
Attack ideas, not the person they're attached to: When you argue with someone, you should remember to only attack that person's ideas, not the person themselves. That means you shouldn't call the person stupid for thinking what they think, and you shouldn't devolve to attacks on their physical appearance either.
Admit when you are wrong: When you make a mistake, admit it. Admit that you misunderstood or were misinformed. Being wrong doesn't make you a lesser person but admitting you're wrong does make you the bigger person.
Apologize when appropriate: If you've hurt someone or your argument caused problems, you should apologize. Be the adult in the situation and take responsibility for your actions.
Be open to new ideas: The best way to argue positively is to be open to new ideas. You don't want to be wrong in an argument again, do you? Open yourself to the possibility of a better way of thinking or new, fascinating information.
2. Arguing Persuasively
Make them feel smart: When you make people feel stupid, that makes them shut down and tends to quickly lead an argument nowhere. Make them feel smart and you'll have an easier time turning the argument in your favor.
Use evidence tailored to the argument and audience: Evidence from reliable sources that specifically supports and deals with what you're arguing about can be one of the easiest ways to win an argument. You should also tailor the type of evidence you use to what kind of person they are, using more logical or more emotional evidence based on what you think they'll respond to best.
Look for logical fallacies: Pointing out fallacies in their logic and politely explaining why that logic is bad is a good way to start to change someone's mind. Learning to recognize logical fallacies can be challenging but here are a few common ones:
Watch out for arguments with incorrectly assume that correlation means causation. For example, rates of autism diagnosis increased with the usage of cell phones. Therefore, autism is caused by cellphone usage. Post-hoc fallacies are similar, but are based on the idea that because A preceded B, B was caused by A.
An Argument from Silence fallacy is the idea that because there is no evidence for something, it must not exist. For example, God/germs/evolution/aliens do not exist because we have never physically witnessed them.
Non-Sequiturs are when the conclusion of an argument is unrelated to its premise. For example, the argument that we can't pay teachers more because policemen and firefighters do not make that much money.
Paint them as the hero or victim: People like to think of themselves as the main character in their life story. Keep them thinking this and charm them into changing their views by carefully tailoring how you talk about the issues.
For example, "I know you really, really want to help people. You're one of the most generous people that I know. But if you really wanted to help people, you wouldn't donate to a charity that misuses their money like that. Don't you want to be sure that your money is directly saving lives?"
Curate your language: When you argue, avoid language like "you" and "me". Instead, use words like "we". This brings your opponent into thinking of the two of you as a single unit with singular interests, rather than driving you apart.
Know when to stop: Sometimes, someone won't be able to change their mind right in front of you. Sometimes you have to just back off and their mind will change slowly over the course of time, as they think about what you said. Of course, sometimes you just have to persist too. It's a subtle art that you may just have to experiment with.
Generally, if someone seems like they're getting really upset, it's time to stop.
Close the argument with something like, "Okay, I can see that I can't change your mind but, please, just think about what I said."
Afroza Akhter Tina
Department of English, DIU