There is not much point in having brilliant ideas if we cannot persuade people of their value. Persuasive debaters can win arguments using the force of their reason and by the skillful deployment of many handy techniques.
So how to win an argument? Here are some general dos and don’ts to help you win arguments together with some sneaky tactics to be aware of.
3.Ask questions. If you can ask the right questions you can stay in control of the discussion and make your opponent scramble for answers. You can ask questions that challenge his point, ‘What evidence do you have for that claim?’ You can ask hypothetical questions that extrapolate a trend and give your opponent a difficulty, ‘What would happen if every nation did that?’ Another useful type of question is one that calmly provokes your foe, ‘What is about this that makes you so angry?’
4.Use logic. Show how one idea follows another. Build your case and use logic to undermine your opponent.
5. Appeal to higher values. As well as logic you can use a little emotion by appealing to worthy motives that are hard to disagree with, ‘Shouldn’t we all be working to make the world better and safer for our children?
6. Listen carefully. Many people are so focused on what they are going to say that they ignore their opponent and assume his arguments. It is better to listen carefully. You will observe weaknesses and flaws in his position and sometimes you will hear something new and informative!
7.Be prepared to concede a good point. Don’t argue every point for the sake of it. If your adversary makes a valid point then agree but outweigh it with a different argument. This makes you looked reasonable. ‘I agree with you that prison does not reform prisoners. That is generally true but prison still acts effectively as a deterrent and a punishment.’
8.Study your opponent. Know their strengths, weaknesses, beliefs and values. You can appeal to their higher values. You can exploit their weaknesses by turning their arguments back on them.
2.Get distracted. Your opponent may try to throw you off the scent by introducing new and extraneous themes. You must be firm. ‘That is an entirely different issue which I am happy to discuss later. For the moment let’s deal with the major issue at hand.’
3.Waterdown your strong arguments with weak ones. If you have three strong points and two weaker ones then it is probably best to just focus on the strong. Make your points convincingly and ask for agreement. If you carry on and use the weaker arguments then your opponent can rebut them and make your overall case look weaker.
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