To start with, you need to have a solid awareness of your own points and conclusion as well as the logic that binds them. You also need to keep a handle on your own emotions but also consider the emotions of the people you are arguing with. To top all of this off you also need to understand how to craft-fully interpret and manipulate your own body language and those of the people around you.
To help keep things simple, this chapter is dedicated to a concise walkthrough of the do’s and don’ts of arguing. This section isn’t intended to state new ground, but to be used as a reference and a reminder of how to conduct yourself during arguments – you can refer back to the individual chapters if you need further guidance on any topic.
Firstly, be responsive. Arguments are not always timely or punctual and you might not want to engage with someone if they are being aggressive or making a bad point. Nonetheless, if you want to resolve or move forward with the issue, you need to be willing to state your points, no matter how taxing it is.
Next, don’t point or raise your hands. Pointing is considered rude and demeaning, but any gestures where the hands are raised or the palms facing down also provide poor impressions.
Do be respectful. A little tact and dignity go a long way; showing some respect, even when it isn’t deserved, can encourage people to calm down and show their better side. Showing respect also makes people listen to your arguments and can give you the moral high ground.
Also, don’t bring up the past. Sometimes to make your point, you might need to list past behavior or events. In most circumstances, bringing up the past is irrelevant and just leads to the argument devolving into people blaming each other for their previous mistakes and faults.
Do listen. Always, always, remember that good arguing is about communication. Communication only occurs if both parties listen to each other. Listening in this sense is more than just hearing – it involves digesting, interpreting and considering a point of view before responding.
Don’t rely on fallacies. There are many types of fallacy; affirming the consequent, argument to authority, ad hominem and much more. Even if you don’t know their posh Latin or academic name, you can often tell when something smells fishy about an argument. Carefully consider the validity of your argument whenever you use it.
Do your preparation. Come into arguments, both formal and informal, well-prepared. Know what points you want to raise and the evidence you need to make those points hit home. Also, consider counter-points and how other people might respond and what you need to say to address these ideas.
Don’t lie. Lying can seem like an easy way to convince someone of a point or get yourself out of a verbal hole which has been dug. However, lying can and will backfire catastrophically, undermining your argument and causing permanent damage to people’s ability to trust you in the future. Just don’t do it!
Do be flexible. People can often surprise you with their ideas and arguments, and you might have to sometimes concede they have a point or change your approach. Be ready to twist your argument or come at it from a different angle.
Don’t be afraid of arguments. Occasional arguing between friends and family is healthy and you may also need to argue your point at work. Remember that arguments by themselves are not really bad, it’s just a matter of how you conduct them. Keep level headed and focused on the point you want to make, addressing it sooner rather than later.
Do consider the right appropriate time to argue. People don’t appreciate being ‘ambushed’ or ‘sprung on’ with a sudden argument and nor do they want to argue in public places or special circumstances. Find a time when it is appropriate to have your argument be heard.
Don’t talk too fast. Talking slowly in an argument is advantageous for multiple reasons. Firstly, it makes your words have much more impact. Secondly, it gives you more time to consider what you are saying and how you are saying it. Finally, it also gives the other person more time to interpret what you are saying and formulate a response.
Do ask questions. Asking questions shows that you are engaged and that you are considering what other people are saying. It is also a great way to ensure that you have fully understood the point that someone is trying to make and allow them to clarify if you haven’t.
Do make use of relaxation techniques. An argument can make your blood boil, but keeping calm gives you the upper edge and helps avoid further conflict. Learning how to keep calm through progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing or another relaxation technique can be your secret method to staying in control.
Don’t be impatient. It takes people time to understood and properly consider your opinion and more time to be convinced. You shouldn’t expect people to be magically swayed the moment you open your mouth; you are going to have to put a little more effort in than that. Be ready to slowly gain ground and bring the other person around to your opinion.
Do use body language to your advantage. Nod your head, smile, mirror the body language of the other person and learn forward to make the other person agreeable. Avoid giving out bodily signals that contradict what you are saying and think carefully about the right time to show signals of relaxation and dominance.
Don’t over-analyze. People are complicated, and you can’t always extract what they are feeling or how they are thinking from their body language. Just be aware and observant and let your gut instinct guide you.
Do think about the differences between work colleagues, friends, family members and strangers. Colleagues don’t have as much reason to like you or agree with you compared to friends and family; tread carefully, relying on logic and being calm to persuade people. Friends can often reconcile over conflicts given a little time, or simply agree to avoid certain issues. Family members often consider your past character when considering your arguments, so ensure that you have given them reason to be considerate.
Don’t ignore your appearance. People judge you on how you look, especially strangers and work colleagues. If you want to be more persuasive, you need to dress to impress and avoid garish garments that can distract from what you are saying.
Do pay attention to micro-expressions. Micro-expressions are small, fleeting expressions that leak through when a person is trying to conceal their feelings. Look out for micro-expressions and you can uncover what another person is really thinking.
Don’t always expect to win an argument. In confrontational arguments, focusing on ‘winning’ isn’t helpful at all – instead, you should be focusing on trying to communicate and understand the feelings of the other people involved. Even when you need to outright persuade or convince, you might still need to ‘agree to disagree’ at some point.
Do allow the other person to speak. It can be tempting to drown out and overpower different opinions, but you will never convince someone of your idea or resolve a conflict by suffocating them out. Allow them to state their opinions and ideas before launching a counter-point.
Don’t get distracted. Focus on one point at a time and always keep in mind the conclusion or outcome you are looking for. Let go of insults and small irritations and always bring it back to the well-considered and logical point you are trying to make.