The ability to prove your point is pivotal to your success in college. However, very few people know how to do it right. Arguments often get emotional and complicated. Therefore, it is important to go into conflict being aware of its potential pitfalls.
Winning is not a point of an argument, unless you are a slick politician. If you are a normal person just having a different opinion, being reasonable and respectful should be your top priority. It is very rarely possible to convince a person from the first try. However, you can place a seed of doubt in them, thus, forcing to reconsider their ingrained beliefs.
The first rule of any argument is not to get emotional. If you do, then the name calling, threats and even physical abuse may ensue. It will not solve anything, but only deepen the existing discrepancies. If you are in class, you may even get expelled.
Aristotle once said that human was a rational animal. Everybody has the logical and the emotional side, and it is important to lean towards the former to ensure that you do not get involved in any personal attacks. Arguments are not about persuading the other person or showing how smart you are. They are about finding a resolution, a common ground or at least a temporary consensus which would allow you to continue communicating and diminish bitterness towards one another.
Humans listen to arguments when they are delivered in a respectful manner. Nobody wants to feel dumb. If you try showing how superior you are, all you are going to get is defense. If, however, you can be calm and rational providing legit facts, it may make the other person more inclined to hear you out.
Have Solids Premises
Premises are reasons which are used to in an argument. If at least one of the premises is dubious, the whole structure is bound to fall apart. So, if it is possible, try to prepare and check your premises in advance anticipating the comebacks. If an argument is spontaneous, be mindful and watch what you say. If you are not sure about the source or the validity of your premises, better leave them out.
There are many methods of arguing such as deductive (when premises are true – then the conclusion is true as well), inductive (when the premises are true – then the conclusion may be true) and abduction (eliminating less likely explanations in order to find the most plausible one). If you familiarize yourself with these techniques, you will become more confident and convincing.
Use Socratic Method in a conversation. Again, nobody wants to feel stupid. Do not tell a person they are wrong, but rather guide them to a correct conclusion through a dialogue. When people figure the truth out on their own, they feel much better about changing their mind. This way, you are more likely to part on friendly terms and gain success in an argument.
Do not get mad at your interlocutor for being defensive and emotional. Imagine how you would feel if somebody attacked your cherished beliefs.
Plato elaborated that people had a tripartite soul which consisted of the rational, emotional and appetitive (physical) parts. So, being guided by emotion or carnal wishes is only human. You should accept it and avoid criticizing your friend for it.
Plato also said that the best people adhere to logic. However, humans are not machines and sometimes they lose control over their feelings. It is normal, and you should simply be kind in a conflict situation. If your interlocutor sees your empathy, they are more likely to calm down and listen to what you say.
There are many simple techniques which should help you win your opponent. Using the right language is crucial in winning or at least swaying an argument in your favor.
First of all, avoid saying “I” all the time. It can make your interlocutor think that you are self-centered, arrogant and selfish. Say “we”, thus including your friend into discussion and tricking them into sharing your opinion.
Second of all, do not shun from the compliments. Sometimes it is hard to do it, especially if you completely disagree. However, it will make your opponent less negative and more willing to adopt your views.
Finally, do not portray yourself as heroic or superior. Be on equal terms and acknowledge other person’s standpoint. Forget about your ego for some time and avoid subjective judgments. Simply state the facts and explain as many times as necessary without getting annoyed.
Due to free speech and globalization most people now can hold miscellaneous views and express them without fear. It is a fantastic accomplishment which, however, does not save anybody from ignorance or misinterpretations.
Take those tips into account, but look out for yourself as well. It may be that your opponent was right all along, and you may need to change your mind. In this case just remember that there is nothing shameful about it, and that it is only a sign that you are evolving.