My argumentation and persuasion skills were the very first communication skills I ever became interested in developing. This was many years ago, back in high-school, when I decided to join my school’s debate and public speaking club. Looking back, that was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Since then I’ve had a lot of experience in both formal and informal argumentation and debate, and I’ve honed my persuasion skills to the nth degree. I’ve learned a few important lessons concerning how to behave during an argument and how to win an argument, which I wanna share with you. Here they are:
1. Make Sure You’re Standing On Firm Ground
A lot of us have very strong opinions on topics we actually know very little about. We delude ourselves that we have a firm grasp on these topics, and thus our opinions are correct. So we’re quick to jump into an argument with anybody who doesn’t share our opinions, certain that we’ll be able to show them we’re right.
I’ve seen many arguments between a person with weak knowledge on the topic being discussed (but very opinionated nonetheless) and a person who was a near expert on that topic (plus a sharp orator). It’s like seeing a lamb in the slaughterhouse (the lamb being the former person). Just brutal!
This is why it’s key to make sure you are knowledgeable on a subject and your ideas are carefully thought-out before getting into a debate on that subject. This means to be standing on firm ground. Don’t assume you know all and you’re always right. Don’t engage in quarrels on topics you lack a firm grasp on. Arrogance is the biggest weakness during arguments.
2. Learn To Apply Solid Reasoning
The building blocks of persuasion are solid reasoning skills.
In order to be convincing, you need to know how to tie together ideas, facts and evidence in a way that makes them logically lead to the conclusion you wanna prove. You also need to be able to see and expose the flaws in the other person’s logic. This is what solid reasoning enables you to do.
I encourage you to study the field of logic, learn how to build logical arguments and how to identify logical errors. Then employ this knowledge as much as you can, and with practice, you’ll develop fast, reliable reasoning skills. Thus you’ll be able to prove your points and disprove contrary points convincingly.
3. Show Respect towards the Other Person
Solid arguments are important, but they are not enough to win an argument. If you don’t treat the person you’re arguing with in a respectful way, it doesn’t matter how strong your case is: you won’t win the argument.
Nobody wants to give into the ideas of somebody who is acting like a jerk. Even if deep down they know you’re right, if they feel disrespected they are likely to resist your arguments simply because they don’t wanna feel that someone who disrespected them won the debate.
Unfortunately, we often tend to become rude during arguments. It’s important to keep this tendency in check. Listen to the other person, try not to interrupt them, agree with them when they are indeed right, don’t give them condescending looks, don’t mock them and don’t insult them. Just because you’re arguing with someone, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it reverently.
4. Always Keep Calm and Composed
Speaking of respect, one of the main reasons why we sometimes end up being rude during an argument is because we get pissed off. And when we do it’s much harder to behave civilly.
Other times we get nervous, which makes it hard to think straight, which makes it hard to reason properly, so there goes our persuasive power in the dispute. That’s why it’s crucial to able to stay calm and composed.
In order to stay calm and composed during an argument, you need to address the root of your anger or anxiety and do some effective emotional management. This is a pretty serious and complex topic, so instead of addressing here, I created a special presentation where I discuss it in more detail.
So I suggest you go here and watch this presentation. In it I describe how negative emotions like anger and social anxiety arise, and how to deal with them in order to be calm and confident, not just during arguments, but in all sorts of social situations.
5. Know When to Cut Your Loses
You can’t win all arguments. In fact there are many arguments you can get into that you have almost zero chances of winning. Not because you don’t have a strong case, but because the other person is too emotionally invested in their own point of view. They desperately need to believe they are right.
There comes a point in these arguments, sometimes a few minutes in, sometimes just a few seconds in, when you can realize that you’re in a dispute you can’t win. Many times we blindly pass that point; because we don’t wanna accept that it’s time to give up.
But if you put your ego aside and you pay attention, you’ll be able to spot that point, and you’ll know when to back out of an argument and cut your losses, because you’re wasting your time going further with it. It’s not easy to do it, but it’s a lot better than the alternative.
If you wanna learn more about dealing with your ego, building persuasive arguments and other related topics, I recommend you join my free social success newsletter, where I share regular advice.
Persuasion is a great skill to have. You’re not gonna win all arguments and convince all people, but it’s wonderful to have some real influence over those around you. It makes you feel like you can truly help people change and make this world a better place.