Communication is a recurrent problem in today’s society, especially when it comes to arguments or debates. Bad communication or not communicating at all can leave both sides frustrated and the problem unresolved.
We are often more focused on talking than on listening and sympathizing with the other person. This, along with assumptions misinterpretations, and lack of knowledge can lead to tense environments and escalations.
But we don’t want to escalate a problem, on the contrary, the best thing to do is to de-escalate. Doing this will calm everyone down enough to think logically and resolve the problem at hand. Keeping calm and de-escalating situations is partly how you can take control of the argument at hand.
Other ways of doing this are listening, asking questions, and realizing that you don’t know everything. This is easier said than done but we at Psych2Go have compiled a shortlist of practical things you can do before, during, and after arguments or debates that can help you win them at the moment or in later situations.
This article is for information and educational purposes only. This is not meant to be a complete guide to winning arguments or debates. In fact, to be able to satisfactorily apply these suggestions they need to be practiced first. Winning an argument on your first try or always winning arguments with the following suggestions is not guaranteed.
The next list is not a complete guide to tips and tricks used to win arguments or debates. If you would like to deepen and widen your research please refer to the sources listed at the end of the article where you can begin your research.
Keep reading to know about 7 ways that may help you win an argument.
1- Stay Calm
Have you ever noticed how many debates on tv end up in screaming matches? While it may be entertaining, this is not an effective way to continue on or even win an argument. When people raise their voices or scream they are immediately seen as a threat to the other person. Not only that, but their raised voices mean that they have entered a fight-or-flight stage in which emotions overrun logic. This will prevent them from giving logic-based arguments, and receiving information from the other party as they will be overcome with feelings.
Whether you are at the receiving or giving end of this outburst, one of the best things you can do is to take a deep breath. This will help calm yourself, ground, center, and help you think before responding.
The tone of voice and the way you speak are also important in keeping yourself and helping the other person calm down, Charlie Houpert, a personal development YouTuber says on one of his videos.
A calmer tone of voice in the face of frustration or sudden anger helps the other person know that you’re not there for a fight. Which leads the other person to start calming down and loosening up.
Another thing Houpert, who is the creator of Charisma on Command, says is that slowing down or pausing when you’re speaking reduces the tension and opens the other person to your receive your perspective.
Another point that Houpert makes is that of upward inflections or upspeak. Upward inflections are the high intonations we sometimes use when ending a sentence.
“Upward inflections are excellent for de-escalating conflict”, says Houpert in his video, “Because it reassures others that you’re not commanding them or trying to control them which is what gets most people upset in arguments in the first place”.
2- Crack a joke & be willing to take a joke
When the tension or awkwardness beings to be too much, and you see signs that the other person may be closing up on you mentally and emotionally it may be time to crack a joke. Be careful with this as not all situations warrant a joke, nor are all people are open to them.
“Cracking a joke can seem counter-intuitive”, says Houpert, “but this makes you more persuasive since you are communicating that you are on the same side as someone when you can laugh with them”.
A well-placed joke can ease the tension and open both sides back up to listening to each other instead of getting ready to throw punches. It will also tell the other person that, despite the position you may be holding throughout the argument or debate, there’s more to you than that.
Now, remember to not dish what you cannot take as there will be times where others will make jokes as well, sometimes targeting your side. This tells the other person that you are not so rigid and serious that you can’t sometimes bend to laugh at yourself for a bit.
3- Ask questions & Listen Carefully
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply” – Stephen R. Covey.
The above quote states a communication problem that happens to all of us at some point. It is that when we “listen” we are not taking in what the other person is saying in its entirety. What we tend to do is gloss over and nit-pick at the things that we can turn into something that we can reply to or argue about later. We don’t listen to the other person to validate them or their experience.
But, doing this will send the message that you do not care about them and the argument is therefore pointless. So you never get to a resolution.
If you want to win arguments you have to listen to the other person with the intent to understand where they are coming from and their point of view. Not only will listening leave the door open for the other person to express themselves more and become more vulnerable, but it will also allow you to identify weaknesses and flaws that you might use later.
“Many people are so focused on what they are going to say that they ignore their opponent and assume his arguments”, says an article on Lifehack, “It is better to listen carefully. You will observe weaknesses and flaws in his position and sometimes you will hear something new and informative!”
To get this and other information you have to ask questions. The types of questions that you ask may vary. If you are not trying to get into a fight then questions to understand, or any question done in a calm, kind, and loving manner might be best.
Questions that first start with a statement validating the other person, but end with a question stating your disagreement can also be used here. This style of questioning is called the Socratic Method and it poses a question that probes for inconsistencies without coming out as an attack to the other person.
If on the other hand, you are in a debate and want to provoke someone then questions to challenge points, hypothetical questions, and other questions that might get your opponent angry might be better.
4- Know that you may not be right & Be Prepared to Concede
No one is born knowing everything, and even when we dive ourselves into studying a certain subject or topic it is impossible to know absolutely everything as we are human, and life is a progression of events that only get documented after they happen. So, it is very difficult to be on top of everything.
Keeping that in mind, you need to be prepared to be proven wrong, learn new things, and concede in some arguments or debates. You do not need to fight or argue over everything. There are moments in which it is better to stay silent or to just walk away.
There will also be times in which you will be taken aback by some new information that you weren’t expecting. Sometimes you might have to concede because the other party is right. But that doesn’t invalidate you or your beliefs.
It is ok to admit you were wrong and change your opinions or beliefs based on this new information. Admitting it is a testament to your goodwill and character. Your ability to change and bend when it is appropriate instead of staying rigid and breaking unnecessarily.
5- Yes, but…
Many people think that an argument is something to be won. That you can’t agree with anything the other person says but this is not true. Admitting you can agree with a statement that a person makes but also state where it is that you disagree in a “Yes, but” statement.
“Finding any area of agreement can be critical to moving forward without making enemies”, says Charlie Houpert, a personal development YouTuber, in one of his videos, “People’s egos get tied up in their arguments and oftentimes when you rebut someone completely they feel personally attacked even if your position is perfectly logical”.
Houpert continues, “So, find a way to validate them by saying yes to something about them or their argument. It can be recognizing the value of one part of what they said”.
If nothing they said makes sense to you, Houpert suggests that recognizing that they are coming from a good place, they have good intentions and that they believe what they are saying can be another good way to move forward.
6- Research & Use facts
Doing research and using facts are two very important things to do before and during an argument or debate. The research will give you mastery of a subject, which will make you comfortable debating it.
Facts will give validity to what you are saying, as well as knock down any emotional arguments that may come your way. It is one of the ways you can use it to rattle people especially if they have no idea of this information.
Knowing about the subject will also help you detect inconsistencies or exaggerations much quicker. It will also help you find hidden premises in statements or questions that aim to make you or your statements a bad thing. Being able to detect them and respond to them accordingly will help you come up on top and appear collected.
7- Appeal to Higher Values
Logic and facts are great to give validity to your statements but sometimes putting some emotion into what you are saying can get you far. You can look at your politicians or leaders for examples. Notice how sometimes they don’t make any sense but because they know how to appeal to the public’s emotions, can gain massive followings and support.
Touching on someone’s heartstrings can get them to soften, agree, with you or even concede on their part. You can even pose overarching questions or statements that are hard to disagree with or take apart.
An article on Lifehack uses the example question of, ‘Shouldn’t we all be working to make the world better and safer for our children?’, to make this point.
Whichever way you use to win an argument make sure you do it with respect, humility, understanding, and kindness. There is nothing worse than having a sore winner that rubs your loss in your face. That is a sure way to get people to dislike you and that will not work with or help you in the future.
Have you ever tried any of the above to win an argument? Let us know how it went in the comments. Remember to check out our YouTube channel for more about psychology.
Charisma On Command. (2018, 5 November). 7 Psychological Tricks To Win Any Argument [Vídeo]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JY5t6iUzajk
Charisma On Command. (2019, 28 October). How To Win An Argument Without Making Enemies [Vídeo]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgXqaS08ZqM
Charisma On Command. (2020, 16 November). How To Argue With Someone Who Won’t Listen [Vídeo]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVF0ojfhSrE
Sloane, P. (2019, 17 December). How to Win an Argument – Dos, Don’ts, and Sneaky Tactics. Lifehack. https://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/how-to-win-arguments-dos-donts-and-sneaky-tactics.html