Be mindful of context during argument

This is the tip that brings it all home – context is of vital importance and keeping it in mind is what will help you know exactly when and with what intensity to deploy everything else that you have learned so far. Certain techniques are only appropriate at certain times, and misapplying them will hinder your argument being well-received.

First of all, you have to take your opponent into account. What is your relationship with them? Certain things that are appropriate with close friends will not be appropriate with distant acquaintances or business colleagues, and vice-versa. Also take into account their character, their likes and dislikes. Avoid bringing things up that may set them off or using methods that they may not like. For example, if they do not have a particularly developed or complementary sense of humor to yours, refrain from adding jokes to your argument. Sure, the validity of your arguments is of utmost importance, but if your opponent clams up and becomes ill-disposed to you, you can kiss any hope of convincing them goodbye.

Following on from this is that you should be mindful of the setting in which your argument is taking place. If it is a private and intimate setting with a friend, you can be a lot more informal. In public you should refrain from doing anything that will attract too much attention or inconvenience bystanders. In a professional environment, like an office, be sure to observe protocol and avoid breaching professional etiquette. You should also take the seriousness and importance of the issue into account. Less grave issues can be approached with less formality while more serious ones cannot.

Some specific ways in which context should influence your argument include knowing when it is appropriate to use humor – knowing whether you can joke about your opponent, their side or if you should even joke at all. Know the tone that you should use overall – just how strident you should be in making your arguments. If the issue is not particularly serious then it’s OK to lay back a bit, but if it is of particular importance then you should push much harder for your side.

Know what level of sophistication of words or concepts you should use. Talking above your opponent will get you nowhere – they won’t be able to understand your points, let alone be able to assimilate and adopt them. Don’t talk down to them either – doing so will fail to communicate the full breadth and extent of your points.

Know what presentation aids and props are appropriate to bring to your argument. If it’s a professional argument, then by all means use any aid available. Personal disagreements – not so much. Being the guy who creates a multipage report to settle a friendly dispute is not just overkill – it’s weird and tedious and will cause your opponent to switch right off to our argument.


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