5 Ways to Have A Constructive Argument
From ever since I can remember, I’ve always been labelled as someone who loves to argue. In other words, I am a Trinidadian at heart! Yes Trinis, doh deny it. We LOVE to argue, or as we call it, quarrel.
As a child I always loved to ‘fight down’ my parents, to the point where they would tell me, “Boy you love to have the last word eh”, or, “You should be a lawyer yes, because all you do is argue!” However, it’s not a love for argument that causes me to do this, but the fact that I’ve rarely come across someone who is willing to properly and constructively argue. Instead, I’ve come across people who love to make erroneous points or get ‘fed up’ too easily.
Now, I don’t know about y’all, but, for me, in Trinidad, a constructive, logical argument is very hard to come by (Somebody from Tobago will have to confirm if it’s the same in our sister isle). Whether it be the “know it all syndrome”, as I call it, where individuals just talk as if they are knowledgeable, but really aren’t, or people getting too emotional to be able to continue a proper discussion, I’ve often been faced with the dilemma repeatedly. If you belong to this group of people, your approach to arguing is about to change forever.
What I’m about to do is share some simple tips on how to have a successful argument, without it getting heated and with both parties being able to walk away satisfied – whether that be satisfied that they’re right, or satisfied that they learned something new.
1. Make sure to have all your corners covered
One thing Trinidadians love to do is enter into discussions about topics that they know nothing about, know very little about or are well versed in, but still cannot answer everything about. Once your opponent has more knowledge than you on a topic, you more than likely won’t be able to win an argument, because for every fact that you know, the other person has a fact that you don’t.
So before engaging someone in a discussion, ensure that there aren’t any questions that can be asked about your theory that you cannot answer. Literally sit down, and work out angles that people might use to attack your points and find the answer, thus raising the possibility of you winning. You might even realise that your initial thoughts may have in fact been flawed. Which leads me to my next point…
2. Choose your arguments wisely
This is a fact that even I am having a hard time coming to terms with. It is impossible to know EVERYTHING. You can try to educate yourself as much as possible, but there will still be things you have not learned. So when you’re liming with your friends, and they start a topic you’ve never heard of, or have only heard in passing, don’t ‘push up’ yourself in the argument for the sake of it. Don’t give input unless you have something worthwhile to add, or you will end up looking silly.
It’s alright to be quiet and observe sometimes. Being quiet does not mean you don’t know anything. It just means you don’t know about the topic at hand.
3. Ensure that your argument is decently constructed
Like I said before, work out your angles and try to dedicate a bit of your time and thoughts to how you are going to successfully get your point across. As if you’re writing an essay, do a little brainstorming and mental jotting of the layout of your argument, which points you’re going to bring across first, how you’re going to do that, and what examples you’re going to use to support that argument. That’s especially helpful when you’re trying to convince someone to do things you way, in work, for example.
Freestyling can land you in hot water, and may leave room for your opponent to make you look less knowledgeable than they are (and yes, sometimes you won’t get to plan from before, but that’s why you’ve got to practise this technique so it becomes a super power). From experience, I can tell you that realising what you should have said, after the argument, is one of the most frustrating things that can happen. Speaking of frustration…
4. Do NOT let emotions get involved
As difficult as it may sound, Trinis, try not to insult your opponent’s character, IQ or facts about his life that may be irrelevant to the argument just to win. If your point is good enough, you can win without trying to assault another person’s feelings. Chances are when this route is taken, your opponent will take offence, and may return insults, causing a whole new argument that is completely irrelevant to the one you were having, and possibly even escalating to a fight.
Even if your opponent may in fact not be knowledgeable on the topic being discussed, don’t tell him, “Yuh stupid awa?” The same goes for victims of an adversary who loves to hurl insults.
If you’re being insulted, do your best to ignore this, while focusing on the validity of your point and how well you are at getting it across. Your pride and ego may take a temporary lashing from the insults, but if you are able to ignore the personal baits, then you will win the argument and keep your ego intact… while the other person looks stupid for losing the argument and trying underhand tactics.
5. Do not be afraid of being wrong
Fact: people generally hate being humiliated or embarrassed. Quite often, people equate the feeling of being wrong in a public setting to humiliation and embarrassment and thus rely on other tactics to win an argument and trivialise the other person’s point or imminent victory.
When you enter an argument, you have to enter with the mindset that you want to win, but that it is possible that you can lose. With that being said, when you are wrong, don’t demean or lessen their argument’s validity. For example, when someone has the answer to all of your points, and you don’t have a response to their rebuttals, don’t make comments like, “You have an answer for everything, eh!”
The reality is your opponent is just better than you in this instance. You’ve lost. Accept it, deal with it, move on and prepare yourself in the future, so that you can avoid further defeat.
So these are the tips that should help you (Trinidadians in particular) be victorious when engaging in an argument. Please note that all the tips should be taken into consideration at all times, if you truly want to come out on top… at all times. If you find yourself losing some arguments, chances are that the other person seems to be right because they choose arguments that they know they can win, and you should do the same.
Image credit: sodahead.com