The Art of Winning an Argument

Argument

Every day we deal with situations where conflicts arise. People disagree with you. You get into an argument and it seems that the other person won’t listen to you. It could be a customer, your spouse, your child, your friend, your neighbor or your boss. A customer demands a full refund after the warranty has expired. Your husband wants to buy a new car when you don’t have the money. You feel you deserve a raise but your boss won’t listen. If only you could get the other person to see things your way!

Well you can! This article will give you a sure-fire technique that will help you win arguments and leave both sides smiling.

The main goal is to get the other person to see things your way

What does winning an argument really mean? Isn’t it essentially getting the other person to see things your way? You want them to agree with you, to change their thinking, to change their mind. If you have accomplished this then you have won the argument. The problem is we usually go about it wrong because we follow our natural tendencies to persuade. 

Why following our “Natural Tendencies” leads to failure

When we find ourselves in conflicting situations our natural tendency is to argue. It’s human nature to do so. It’s almost an irresistible urge. We want to conquer and beat our opponent down. This is natural for us and it’s WRONG! It’s wrong for one good reason: It doesn’t work!

High pressure causes a natural reaction to push back. No one likes to be told they are wrong. No one likes to be forced to do or think anything. No one likes threats. Our natural reaction is to fight back, to push back, to argue back.

“A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

This is why criticism, scare tactics and threats don’t work. Tell someone their idea is stupid and they will defend it all the more. Criticize someone’s position and they will fight back to save face. One of the strongest urges in human nature is self-survival and that includes survival of the ego too.

How winning at golf and winning arguments are related

Years ago when I played my very first game of golf things didn’t go very well. I grabbed a driver and stepped up to the first tee. I swung at the ball with all my might. I watched it slice right into the nearby pond. Splash!

The swing felt very natural to me but the ball didn’t go where I wanted it to go. This happened again on my next few attempts. I was an utter failure.

Then one of my golf buddies proceeded to show me how to hold the club, where to put my feet, how to position my shoulders, when to breath, and so on. It all felt very unnatural to me!  But guess what happened on my next swing – I connected with the ball and it went relatively straight and much further than before.

Golf is hard because it’s not natural. It goes against every natural tendency. To be successful at golf you have to learn a very scientific but unnatural swing. The same goes with winning arguments. You have to learn very scientific but unnatural techniques. 

The scientific technique that works

The scientific method to win an argument is just the opposite of what we naturally do.

Low pressure is the secret

Have you ever noticed that when someone tells you, “You can’t do that,” you have an uncontrollable urge to do it anyway? Have you ever noticed when someone tells you “You have to do so and so,” that your automatic reaction is, “Oh no I don’t!”

Scientific research has verified it over and over. Study after study has revealed that efforts to sway thinking or change behavior using high pressure, threats or force simply don’t work. Yet those people who were presented with unemotional facts, without any pressure, were much more likely to change their behavior or thinking.

We learn from the Bible:

“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”
— Proverbs 15:1

We must work with human nature

It all boils down to this: you must learn to work with human nature, not against it. To do so, follow these guidelines:

1. Approach in a friendly manner. Instead of coming on with an attitude or temper, use a soft voice and a relaxed state of mind. Smile and let the other person know you are their friend.

2. Listen to their point of view. Whether the other person’s side of the issue has any merit or not, allow them to express it and then LISTEN! People have a need to be heard. When you allow the other person a chance to speak it relieves a great deal of pressure off the situation.

3. Empathize with their ideas. Show genuine concern for their position. Help them feel that you understand them and care about their situation. People are more willing to see your point of view when they feel their point of view has been understood. This gives you a chance to present your own ideas in the context of having understood the pros and cons of theirs. 

Take the pressure off

To maintain an open channel of communication with another person we need to take the pressure off. Be friendly, listen to them, empathize with them. This doesn’t mean you agree with them, necessarily, but rather that you are open and willing to accept their point of view. Showing you understand them will take the wind out of their confrontational sails. Arguments aren’t possible when you pay close attention to the other person’s interests because it leaves only one place to go: understanding what you want.

Try it and see. You may be surprised to learn that your most powerful tool in winning an argument is to not have one at all – and this is done by taking the pressure off.

How to Make Opposition Work for You

Opposition

Have you ever tried to persuade someone to your way of thinking only to be confronted by heavy opposition? Although it may sound illogical, opposition can actually be a good thing when trying to influence and persuade others.

Opposition can be good

Every time we are engaged in an attempt to influence someone we need to evaluate whether that person is receptive to our efforts or not. Normally when we encounter opposition we tend to feel our efforts are failing. Strange as it may seem, that’s not necessarily the case.

Opposition means you still have a chance

Let’s suppose you are in a meeting and you are presenting an idea and someone in the meeting begins to challenge it. They throw up opposition by arguing why it can’t be done or why it shouldn’t be done or why your idea isn’t a good idea. Your first thought is to think that the person will be impossible to persuade to your way of thinking. Actuallythe opposite is true. It’s the person who agrees immediately with your ideas and wants to move on that usually is not going to take any action in that direction. The person who is actually giving you opposition and is actively engaged in a discussion about it is much more likely to be persuaded.

If the other person agrees too easily 

Let me give you an example. Let’s suppose you know someone who is in very poor health and you tell them, “You know, you really ought to go see a doctor and get a checkup.” That person can handle that suggestion is two ways.

The first way is to agree with you immediately and say, “Yes, you’re right. I should go see a doctor and get a checkup.” They don’t argue with you at all. They immediately agree with you but inside they know that they have no intention whatsoever of going and seeing a doctor. They want to agree with you immediately so they can move on. They want to get past the subject. They don’t want to discuss it. They know on one level that you’re right, but on another emotional level they have many internal reasons they don’t want to see a doctor. It could be that they are afraid of what the doctor may find out. It could be that they can’t afford it. It’s going to cost them money and they don’t want to spend it. It could be that they already know what the doctor is going to tell them. The doctor is going to tell them they need to cut out certain foods and they need to exercise and they are not ready to deal with that right now.

So they will agree with you immediately so they can get off the subject and move on. You haven’t persuaded them at all but they want you to think that you have. So when someone agrees with you immediately it’s a sign that they are closed to discussion.

If the other person disagrees 

The second way they can respond is to disagree with you. If they argue with you about it, then the channels of persuasion are still open. They will say things like, “You know, I don’t really want to go to the doctor. It’s too much of a hassle and I don’t trust doctors.” If they oppose you, if there is opposition there, then the conduit of persuasion is still open.

You may think just the opposite is true when they agree with you. You think you have persuaded them but when they oppose you and argue with you, you think that you haven’t persuaded them. Opposition doesn’t mean that you have persuaded them but it does mean that the lines of communication and the channels of persuasion and influence are still open and that you still have that opportunity. They still haven’t made up their mind internally. There’s an internal conflict. So they may be arguing with you on the outside but internally they are arguing with themselves about whether they should or they shouldn’t pursue the particular course you are suggesting.

Pay attention to the responses you get

The next time you are in a situation where you need to persuade others to your way of thinking, pay attention to their response. If there is opposition then you still have a good chance to change their minds.

The Power of Biting Your Tongue

Bite Your TongueHave you ever said something you later regretted? I certainly have. Many times. One time when I felt like letting my daughter have a verbal lashing, I didn’t. I bit my tongue and learned an important lesson in the process.

My oldest daughter Erika was home from college for the summer and for one reason or another we were just not getting along. This is what I recorded in my journal that day:

Today was Mother’s Day. It was a good day. However, first I want to note what I feel was a significant thing that happened to me today. My relationship with Erika lately had been less than warm. It seemed we were clashing about something on a daily basis and I was so down and depressed about it. I just was so sad inside. I had no smiles in me. It was like I had a dark cloud following me around. And of course last night it happened again when we had some not-so-nice words about what you call a car gas cap, of all things! I wanted so bad to just chew her out and tell her how I really felt about the way she talks to me. I felt like telling her if she wanted to live here she better treat me right or she should just go live somewhere else. But I bit my tongue and said nothing.

Well, this morning I still had the gloomy cloud over me. I was in the bathroom about to shave when Erika came in. She smiled at me and then apologized about what she said last night. I told her that her apology was accepted and that I forgave her.

I was really amazed that the dark gloomy cloud over me totally lifted. From that point on my whole day was great. I felt so good inside like a light had been turned on. Even my headache went away.

Two things I learned: First the value of holding your tongue. If I had chewed her out I’m sure we would still have bad blood between us. The second thing I learned was the power of our moods and how much they affect everything we do – for good or ill. Interesting.

Next time you get the urge to verbally berate someone, think twice and bite your tongue. You may be surprised at the outcome.