The Art of Effective Argument

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Arguing can be an emotionally draining experience, so we need to be careful in how we prepare and engage in argument. This is not so much a guide on how to win arguments; it is more a guide on when to argue and how to conduct an argument.

Don’t insist on having the last word.

Focus on getting your argument across effectively and coherently; when you have adequately explained your position don’t feel a necessity to keep repeating yourself. There are some people who will never want to admit defeat; no matter what you say they will want to keep arguing. There are occasions when you just need to let people have the last word; having the last word does not mean you have won the argument.

Silence can be a very powerful Argument

True words aren’t eloquent;
eloquent words aren’t true.
Wise men don’t need to prove their point;
men who need to prove their point aren’t wise.

Tao Te Ching verse: 81

Foolish people will want to pick arguments over inconsequential things. Great thinkers and innovators are often criticised, only because people are suspicious of new things. If these pioneers stopped to argue with all the self styled critics, the evolution of the world would have been a lot slower. This is the art of knowing when to argue and when to remain silent. If you have faith in an idea or vision, don’t stop to have meaningless arguments. Often great people aren’t appreciated until they are dead; but, truly great people don’t create a lasting legacy through engaging in arguments with critics.

Pick the Right Argument to have

You could spend all day finding reasons to argue with other people. But, if we are honest, arguments rarely have much benefit. An argument should be seen as the last alternative; only argue where it would compromise some significant principle. If possible try to find a way to suggest ideas in a non confrontational way. If we need to challenge someone’s opinion’s there may be better ways of doing this than a head-on argument.

Remain detached

Arguments can be emotionally draining. This is because we identify with the argument so much we feel either personal victory or personal defeat. However, a better strategy is to separate your self from the argument. If the argument goes badly, no harm. If people don’t accept your argument, no harm. Also, don’t expect to change people’s opinions with your arguments; unless a person is very open minded or undecided they are unlikely to change their opinion.

You don’t have to Win

This is related to the idea of maintaining silence. It is important to remember that the point of arguments are not just to glorify your ego. A good argument is about the interchanging of ideas. If you maintain an open mind, you can learn from the arguments of others and moderate your opinions. This is not a sign of weakness, the whole point of argument is to gain greater insight and evolve your ideas. The problem is that our ego often becomes attached to an argument; therefore, it feels reluctant to admit any weakness in our argument. Therefore, we continue to maintain a false idea out of pride; this is a mistake.

Have a clear Knowledge of What you are arguing about

This may sound like stating the obvious; but, from observation of others, we find to our dismay that many of the most fervent arguments are often based on here-say and misleading facts. If you are going to stick your neck out and argue, make sure you know what you are talking about. Before arguing with others, take the time to do some primary research; don’t just go on the gossip and rumours of others.

Stick to Facts – Avoid emotional exaggeration.

A good argument is one that involves a calm, logical exposition of the facts. A bad argument will descend into adding personal insults and appealing to cheap emotional responses. Let the facts speak for themselves – don’t feel the necessity of adding emotional indignation. Avoid personalising arguments. The personal foibles of the other person are not relevant to an argument on politics / work.

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8 thoughts on “The Art of Effective Argument”

  1. I love your blog. What a great idea! Keep up the awesome work.
    Love & Gratitude,
    Tina
    Think Simple. Be Decisive.
    ~ Productivity, Motivation & Happiness

  2. This is a great article. A good stepping stone for me and others who have difficulty arguing well.

    I often feel trapped in conversations. Especially with difficult folks who seem to look for fights, situations which I can’t easily avoid.

    Some can dance their words around me and turn my own words around before I realize it. Then they end up accusing me of being bad or evil when my intentions are for good.

    I would always love discussions which could lead to win-win situations but at worst I’d love to dissolve or neutralize a terrible discussion before it gets worse.

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