October 6, 2012Category: WritingTags: ,

I’ve learned quite a bit about confrontation from watching my dad as I grew up. Learned a little about what to do, and a lot about what not to do. I’ve come to two conclusions in the area of how to go about arguing.

  • 1.) Do It In Private
    If you have to have a confrontation with someone, do it without being in front of other people, especially other people that you both know. Any time someone is proven wrong it’s embarrassing, even if you take measures (see point 2) to mitigate that embarrassment. Doing this in front of people that know you both will just multiply this effect and cause the person to argue harder, not wishing to be proven wrong publicly.

  • 2.) Give The Person an Out
    Whenever you argue, try to make it seem like the person’s incorrect view is understandable, even common. As much as possible you want to remove the embarrassment and stigma of having an incorrect view. No one wants to look stupid or silly, and so if you make it seem like the person is such for having said view, then they’ll defend it even harder. Don’t make them feel bad, and things will go better.

Example: John tells me that glass is actually a super thick liquid. I think that no, it’s a solid. Which of these two responses from me is the better one?

Really, John? Seriously? Glass is a liquid? Look, do you see how it stands there and doesn’t move? It’s a solid. And no matter what you say, the rest of us will continue understand the actual TRUTH, that it is a solid.

Hmm, I’ve heard that before actually, several times, so I understand why you might think it. Problem is, it’s actually just a myth from the internet. Definitely one of the most wide-spread ones, since so many people believe it, but I checked once with one of my chemistry professors [or insert any authority figure] and confirmed that it’s actually not true.

The second one is the answer you want to give if you want to have the best chance of winning the argument, as well as maintaining your cordial relation with John. Lets look at why for a moment.

By saying, I understand why you think that, and that other people also have been fooled, you make it seem like it’s no big deal that he was. You aren’t looking down on him for being wrong, which removes the stigma attached to it. He’ll be much more likely to admit it. This is a sharp contrast to the first in which you make the person feel bad for being wrong, in this case by being different from everyone else who believes correctly.

Note: This falls under point 2, but wasn’t covered in the example. NEVER be condescending. It’s just another way of making the person feel bad. Negativity in any form will never help you, so try to avoid it. Additionally, pay attention to the other person’s argument. They might actually know something you don’t, and end up being right.