Proven Strategies for Getting Your Point Across (To Anyone)

If you’ve felt like the cultural climate is more divisive than ever, you’re not alone. According to the Pew Research Center, 85% of Americans believe that the nature and tone of political debate in the US has become more negative. In such a tense cultural environment, is it even possible to win an argument on social media or in real life anymore? Yes. Let’s take a look at how to win an argument every single time.

Choose Your Arguments Wisely

Just because you disagree with someone’s perspective doesn’t necessarily mean winning an argument against them will make much of any difference. In this current social and political climate, it’s not uncommon for there to be stark differences in the way family members and old friends view the same issues through vastly different lenses. One of the most important ways to win arguments is to be selective in the arguments you engage in. Don’t get into the habit of arguing for the sake of arguing, and be thoughtful about what the consequences of winning arguments might be on your relationship with the other person.

Use Psychology to Your Advantage

Whether you’re trying to win an argument on social media or in real life, you’ll want to have a basic understanding of people’s psychology. While we like to think of ourselves as rational, logical people, this is fairly far from the truth, particularly in the heat of an argument.

Keep Your Cool and Be Polite

When you have a position that you know is right, it’s easy to fall into passionately defending your perspective. While it’s fine to be energetic, it’s absolutely essential to remain polite, courteous, and avoid getting hot-headed. You have to remember your ultimate goal in a debate. You’re trying to convince the other person that you’re perspective is right. When you are defensive, angry, and biting, your opponent is actually likely to feel more affirmed in their position. Getting angry and worked up is only going to humiliate you or the other person. If your opponent can’t keep their cool, it works in your favor. If you match their energy, though, nobody wins.

Know Your Facts, But Don’t Go Overboard

You’d think that winning an argument would be all about having the right statistics to back up your point. While it’s good to know the facts about the topic you’re discussing, stringing off a bunch of data points isn’t going to sway anyone in your direction. If you’re going to use statistics and provable facts in your argument, make sure you’ve got the numbers right. Nothing can weaken your argument faster than the discovery that your statistics were ever so slightly incorrect. The reality is that people are fundamentally emotional. When engaging in political discussions, most people have gut moral intuitions first and then find points to support their belief. Facts don’t necessarily change people’s minds. That means that they aren’t gathering information and coming to a conclusion. They find the conclusion first and find the facts and reasoning later. Knowing this can help you understand where your opponent is coming from and affects how you frame your argument.

Let Your Opponent Help You Win

Why should you do all the work? Your opponent can actually do quite a bit of the heavy lifting for you if you can direct the conversation that way.

Ask Questions

Have you ever seen those “man on the street” videos where normal people are asked to explain their perspectives? While they might start out confident, you can see their lack of reasoning for their position unfold in real-time. Asking them to explain their position and following up with open-ended questions is a good idea for a number of reasons. First, obviously you can’t argue against a perspective if you don’t know what their position is. Allowing them space to fully articulate their beliefs helps you properly frame your own argument. It also avoids the issue that you’ll make incorrect assumptions about their position. Second, your opponent is a lot more likely to listen to your rebuttals if you give them the opportunity to speak their mind. The debate won’t get anywhere if your opponent feels disrespected, unheard, and preached to. Third, you’ll likely see some aspect of your opponent’s position unravel in response to your questioning. As stated before, people often pick a side first based on a moral intuition rather than taking a stand after gathering all the facts. This is a great way to find weaknesses in their point of view and argument.

Identify Shared Ground

Ideally, arguments should maintain a positive atmosphere and a lightness to them. If the argument remains friendly, you’re more likely to persuade them of your perspective. Think about it: how likely would you be to change your mind if someone was insulting you and your point of view? While engaged in an argument, it’s important to try and identify common ground. If you’re able to point of things that you agree on rather than only harping on your disagreements, they’ll be much more likely to come over to your side.

How to Win an Argument Is Not as Straightforward as You Might Have Thought

It’s easy to assume that how to win an argument is a matter of a perfectly designed, factual, and bulletproof point of view. In reality, though, we are all human and are impacted by subtle emotional and psychological factors. While you obviously want to have the facts on your side, listing off statistics like a robot isn’t going to get you very far. When you’re engaged in an argument, you’re trying to persuade another person of your perspective. That means that you have to win them over, not beat them down. It’s not about having the specific words to win an argument, it’s about having the right attitude, tactics, and tone. I covered the topic on this week’s episode of the Confident Communications Podcast. Take a listen. When you find yourself embroiled in a fight, or part of a heated debate, it can be tempting to try to win the argument. It’s only human to want to be «right,» which is likely why we get into fights in the first place. But the single best thing to keep in mind when arguing isn’t winning, but listening, understanding, and then diffusing the fight. I know, that doesn’t sound anywhere near as fun. You might be wondering what the point of a heated debate would be, or why you’d even want to have a passionate (or even angry) discussion if someone isn’t crowned victorious. But if you’re truly fighting, or something’s at risk — like your relationship or your job — the last thing you want to do is risk it all for the sake of winning. That’s why we should all know how to «win» a fight by diffusing it, instead. «You don’t want to sabotage a relationship or situation because of an argument,» NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells Bustle. «You likely will need to see this person again and you don’t want to ruin your reputation. Unhealthy arguments can also lead to feelings of stress, anger, depression or anxiety if you feel like the situation is ongoing and nothing is getting resolved.» Since that’s not what you want, read on for some ways to win an argument, without having to stress yourself out or take someone down.

1. Validate Their Feelings

In the heat of the moment, it can be difficult to listen — much less say something nice. But if you’d like to diffuse the situation, you need to validate the other person’s feelings. «When someone feels a certain way, most of the time they just want to be heard,» life coach Sara Pierce tells Bustle. «Saying things like ‘I understand why you’d feel that way…’ or ‘Anyone would feel like that in the same situation’ validates the other person’s emotions and completely disarms them.» And just like that, the argument will be over.

2. Look At It As A Conversation

Instead of going into an argument with your proverbial fists up, or thinking «this is an argument,» remind yourself it’s just a conversation. «Go back to the concept of talking with someone rather than talking to someone,» says certified life coach Jane Scudder. «It’s a subtle but big difference.» And it can help keep the other person cool, which pretty much always means you’ve won the argument.

3. Make It All About Them

People will stop listening if they can’t relate to what you’re saying, so remember to make the conversation about them. «Showing how and why something matters in relation to that person’s life and experience is a really important part of persuasion, but one we neglect to do because we naturally approach the world from our own points of view,» says Scudder. «The key for successful persuasion is to break from this.» Even if it’s hard to do.

4. Don’t Lose Your Cool

This can be super tricky when you’re upset, but whatever you do, try not to lose your cool. «Losing your temper will only anger the other person, which will heighten the argument,» says Hershenson. If you can keep things calm, she tells me you might even be able to stop the argument. And I think that’s totally worth it.

5. Look At Things From Their Perspective

To keep the argument under control, try your best to view the other person’s side of the story. «You need to be able to step into the mind of the person you are arguing with and see their view,» says Hershenson. «This allows you to figure out what is influencing them and you can come back with a powerful counter argument.» Not an attack, mind you. But rather something that’ll really put a stop to the fight.

6. Keep Your Facts Straight

Before getting too deep into an argument, make sure to have your facts straight. As Hershenson tells me, quoting incorrect information weakens your point, which is essentially an automatic loss. So check your facts and avoid yelling about any old thing. If you aren’t sure about something, you can always say, «I’d need to look into that.»

7. Avoid Using Exaggerations

It’s common to toss around exaggerations when trying to win an argument, but this tactic almost always ends up backfiring. «Words like everybody, always, and never, are broad generalizations,» says communication coach Chad Elliot. They make your point unbelievable, while also angering whoever you’re talking to. And that’s not worth it.

8. Try To Be More Persuasive

During an argument, think like a salesperson and try to be as persuasive as possible. «Salespeople, speakers, and teachers have known that facts don’t persuade, emotion does,» says Elliot. To pull on the other person’s heart strings, toss in some imagery or relate the story back to them. Hopefully they’ll calm down and see things your way.

9. Use «I» Statements Whenever Possible

Instead of casting blame and saying things like «you did this» and «you did that,» try using «I» statements. «An ‘I’ statement reduces others becoming defensive when bringing up a topic of concern,» says counselor Jennifer Blanks (Artesani) M.Ed LMHC, in an email to Bustle. «If they feel defensive they really aren’t going to try to solve this issue with you … they are going to focus on defending themselves, which will not help you win the argument.»

10. Respect Their Point Of View

It may be tough to stay respectful, especially when you vehemently disagree with what someone has to say. But the best way to keep an argument calm is to be as kind as possible. «Respectfully acknowledge the other person’s view point, even if you don’t agree with it,» says wellness coach Erin Stair, MD, MPH. Say things like «I see what you’re saying there,» or «That’s a good point.» They might be so thrown off that you can walk away the winner.

11. Try To Politely Disengage

If the other person is truly getting out of control, it’s often best to disengage. «If someone is becoming too aggressive, a perfect phrase to drop is, ‘If you say so.’ That works like a charm,» Stair says. «It’s a classy way of disengagement … and you also won’t lose a friend or potential contact.» While it may be tough to keep your cool during an argument, staying calm, using «I» statements, and remaining respectful are some of the best things you can do. You may not want to focus on «winning» the fight, but you’ll certainly come out on top if you’re kind and respectful. Images: Pexels (12)

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