Some people love the drama of a good debate, while others avoid conflict at all costs. Yet once an argument begins, it seems everyone has one thing in common — we all want to win. Winning an argument definitely takes some skill, but doing it right can feel oh so very satisfying, and it can even help you improve your life.
The world is rife with opportunities to argue. You can get into a disagreement with your boss, a heated political debate with friends, an argument with your SO, or even a scuffle with someone in line at the grocery store. It seems everyone is itching for a fight, so it's a good idea to know how to handle yourself.
Of course winning for the sake of winning isn't the point, but coming out on top after a debate feels good because it means your point of view was heard. Maybe you convinced your old-fashioned grandpa why pro choice is a good thing, or maybe you persuaded the person in the grocery store line to stop cutting in front of everyone. See? You can affect change in the world, one successful argument at a time.
The key is arguing effectively. Here are some tips for winning an argument, or at least helping it de-escalate into a more manageable conversation.
1. Be Confident AF
Even if you know you're right, debating with someone can bring up some serious confidence issues. This other person is doubting you, or disliking what you have to say, and now it's your job to convince them otherwise. It can make you feel shaky at best, and downright panicky at worst. Being confident can help counteract these nervous feelings, so go into an argument standing strong behind what you have to say — even if you have to fake it. As noted by Patrick Allan on Lifehacker.com, "If you want to be the winner of the argument, act like you are. Speak confidently, be concise, and try not to repeat yourself. Give the appearance that you truly know what’s right from the beginning, even if you don’t have all of the facts. Having facts that can support your stance is helpful, sure, but being convincing matters more."
2. Make Sure You Listen
It can be easy to glaze over during an argument and wait for your turn to talk, but that's not the point of a debate, now is it? Both of you have something to say, so take the time to listen to each other. Listening can help resolve an argument, and can even help convince the other person that you're right. According to an article by Julie Weingarden on Huffington Post, if you want to persuade someone to see your way, you first need to hear what they want. This can allow a win-win type of argument, where everyone gets their way.
3. Keep Your Emotions In Check
You may find yourself getting pissed off during an argument, but throwing a plate across the room isn't going to do much for your credibility. If you lose control of your emotions — screaming, cursing, throwing things — it's going to be hard for the other person to take you seriously. As noted by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., in Psychology Today, "If you lose your temper, you’ll only antagonize your opponent, which will further heighten his or her wrath, and the process can only escalate upwards. Don’t worry that you'll seem weak by becoming calm in the midst of an argument — you’ll gain points by showing that you can exercise self-control. Who knows, the argument may even end right then and there, once both of you take a more reasoned perspective." Seems worth it to me.
4. Respect Their Opinion (Or At Least Pretend To)
Nothing makes another person shut down more than being disrespected. If you're arguing with someone, be sure to show signs that you're respecting their opinion. As Allan notes, "Listen to what they have to say and take it in. Don’t shake your head while they talk, cut them off mid-sentence, or look away like you don’t care about what they’re saying." When the other person feels respected, they're less likely to disagree with you out of anger, which means you're more likely to win the fight.
5. Stay On Topic
Don't you hate it when you're arguing with someone, and they bring up something that happened a year ago? It's annoying because it takes away the focus from the topic at hand, and makes things way too messy. So don't do it yourself, either. If you're bringing up unrelated things from the past, you're simply venting and the argument will spiral out of control. According to Allan, "Stay focused on the current subject and keep your emotions out of it."
6. Know That There Is A Resolution
If you want to win an argument, you have to be able to see a clear ending to a fight. Fighting for the sake of fighting is no good, and wastes everyone's time. Instead, picture the argument resolving peacefully, an start steering the conversation in that direction. According to Krauss Whitbourne, "... you may see a way out of what seems to be a locked battle of wills once you believe that there is a way out. This is what happens in ordinary problem-solving, when thinking outside of the box can help all sides come up with a solution. Such an 'aha' moment in an argument can lead you straight to victory."
The next time you find yourself in a debate with your SO, an argument with a friend, or even a disagreement with a stranger on the streets, keep these tips in mind so that you can win (or at least end) the argument in the most peaceful way possible.
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