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Sunday, May 03, 2009

How To Win An Argument Every Time

Some friends and I were talking this past week about how to avoid arguments. The answer is to ask questions, to make the other person define his or her terms and prove his or her point, and usually the argument will evaporate before it really begins.

That's the way to win an argument without having to argue at all. Just be gentle and wise as to how you go about it. Under no circumstances, tell a person he or she is wrong. No one likes to be told, emphatically and finally, “You are wrong.” It burns the person's ego; it makes him or her feel smaller and want to spoil for a fight and jump into a heated argument.

If you let the other person do the talking, you inflate his or her ego; listening is the direct opposite of arguing. You don't have to agree with everything the other person says but your willingness to listen makes the person know that you understand, or at least, will attempt to understand his or her point of view.

When you argue with a person, you are attacking his or her ego, which goes off the instant an outsider touches it. However, if you admit that the other person is right on small, insignificant points, you'll find yourself getting your own way on the big issues.

Arguments always tend to wander away from the main issues and get cluttered up with trifling connections to which you can yield gracefully without sacrificing your main convictions. By conceding points that don't matter, you'll get credit for being broad-minded, and this keeps the other person more reasonable.

Have you ever noticed how voices rise higher and higher during arguments? Have you ever been trapped into making rash statements and displaying bad manners? No wonder. Your system was full of adrenaline; you were ready for a fight. But at the same time, you'd sidetracked your capacity for straight thinking.

Benjamin Franklin once said that the ability to remain calm when the other person disagrees with you is the loftiest human accomplishment. He also said that the way to convince another is to state your case moderately and accurately. Then scratch your head, or shake it a little, and say, that is the way it seems to you, but that, of course, you may be mistaken about it. This, then, causes you listener to receive what you have to say and, like it or not have to turn around and convince you of it, since you seem to be in some doubt. But if you go at the person in a tone of positiveness and arrogance, you only make an opponent of him or her.

This was the kind of tact and good judgment that Franklin made one of the greatest sales in history. He sold a group of men the idea of adopting, and signing the Constitution of the United States.