How to win an argument | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 25, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:36 PM, August 25, 2017

How to win an argument

If you're not naturally good at debating, arguments can be frustrating. Here are some sure-fire methods to make sure you get your point across.

Engage your opponent

1. Ask them to explain their side

A hostage negotiation technique described in a research by Gregory Vecchi of the FBI illustrates that to gain trust and build rapport, you need to hear out the other person without interrupting or disagreeing. Try open-ended questions such as: “What makes you think we won't colonise the moon?”

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2. Mirror your opponent

A study in the Journal of Consumer Research points out that if you mimic your opponent, they are more likely to believe you. Are they sitting with their arms crossed? Let some time elapse and cross your arms too, but not too obviously.

3. Make direct eye contact

Researchers at the University of Freiburg and The Wharton School say that making direct eye contact while you listen makes the speaker's arguments less persuasive, thereby making yours look stronger.

4. Reiterate what you picked up

Hostage negotiation techniques also show that repeating an argument back at the speaker develops a sense of trust by proving that you're actively listening. Paraphrase whatever much you understand, e.g. “So you're saying we can't colonise the moon because we don't have the technology?”

5. Share what you can relate to

If you can successfully build a rapport with your opponent, you can encourage them to see things from your viewpoint. Try this: “You've made a good point; I agree that the issue of technology makes the colonisation of the moon much more difficult, but…”

Present your viewpoint

1. Get your facts right

Opinions might feel logical until we're asked to explain ourselves. The phenomenon of “illusion of explanatory depth” shows that people understand their own arguments far better than they really do.

2. Demonstrate that others agree

Robert Cialdini, psychology and marketing professor at Arizona State University, calls this “social proof”, and it works by showing that the opponent's peers agree with the statement you're making.

3. Soften the tone of your argument

Hedging is using a phrase to indicate a degree of uncertainty, e.g. “It could be the case that…” The researchers at Cornell found that doing so makes you seem more invested in finding the truth than just wining the argument.

4. Deploy verbal affirmations

Agree with your opponent on finer details with affirmations like, “Isn't it?” or “Wouldn't you?” According to The Definitive Book of Body Language doing this helps to win them over.

5. Lower your pitch

Researchers at the University of Illinois, University of British Columbia and Harvard have found that lowering your voice pitch, regardless of what you normally sound like, enhances your powers of persuasion.

Get agreement

1. Dazzle them with “extreme agreement”

A study by researchers at Tel Aviv University and The Hebrew University recommends taking your opponent's most basic beliefs and developing them into an absurd conclusion, i.e. instead of attacking someone's ideas, say, “Are you 100 percent confident that we could never colonise the moon, even with all the great minds in the world working on it?”

2. Flag their dangerous beliefs

Cyber-security researchers at the University of Twente and Delft University in the Netherlands found that making your opponent aware of the risks involved with what they are saying has a positive effect on neutralising them. Try the following: “If we assume it's impossible, we might never try, and then if something endangers our existence on Earth, where would we go?”

3. Established shared ground

According to Cialdini, developing a positive environment of mutual liking can improve your power to convince: “It's great we agree on the need for a solution in the event that the Earth's existence is endangered.”

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