Creative disagreement is invigorating. It is important to discuss, making your points factually rather than speaking apodictically. However, it is not worth it for everyone. Let go if there is no space for an intelligent exchange of arguments.
The origins of the art of argumentation can be traced back to the beginnings of ancient philosophy, and Aristotle distinguished a separate field from it. He called for correctness in arguments and truth, which leads to winning, not to sham or manipulation.
Discussion should serve to achieve one’s goals, but with respect for the interlocutor and acceptance of his point of view. Knowledge of argumentation is useful both in great disputes and in everyday conversations, negotiations, or justification of one’s position.
The Art of Argumentation: How To Persuade
Speak to the recipient
An argument should reach its recipient in the simplest possible way, so it is necessary to adjust the argumentation to the person with whom we are talking. This seems obvious. However, some speakers prefer to argue for themselves, often showing off with their erudition or hermetic, and therefore not always understandable language or jargon.
Use different types of arguments.
The purpose of an argument is to support or refute a position. Therefore, you should use arguments that are relevant to your case. There are many types of arguments, among which we can distinguish:
- – factual, they are concrete data or facts, e.g., sales in December were 95 percent of the plan;
- – logical, resulting from inference or analogy, e.g., if everyone agrees that two given projects should be combined, then this is what should be done;
- – emotional; these include feelings and beliefs;
- – other, are authorities, experience, common opinion, knowledge, theories.
Which group of arguments to use? There is no obvious answer. Much depends on the situation, the issue, and the audience.
The first two groups of arguments are the most objective, but it is the last two groups of arguments, although subjective, that can be the most effective. In the art of argumentation, it is believed that a good argument is one that is effective.
Therefore, it is worth reaching for different ones, but always within the limits of reason. The strength of an argument is determined not only by its merits, but also by how effective it will be for a given group of recipients. An argument that is strong in one group may turn out to be weak in another. Therefore, when preparing for an important conversation, it is important to have a list of arguments on hand:
A cardinal argument:
If you have arguments on an issue, even many, and you don’t have one cardinal one, you may have none. A cardinal argument is like a boss of bosses, and it is the foundation of your conviction and your rhetoric.
When getting into a discussion with someone, it’s a good idea to think about what arguments the other side will use so you can build counterarguments to them beforehand. Such preparation can make the argument easier and shorter, as well as persuade someone more effectively and reach an agreement faster.
It is not only the arguments themselves that matter, but also how they are presented. The order matters. For example, if your interlocutor is impatient, you should start with the strongest argument and end with the weakest.
On the other hand, if your interlocutor has a longer attention span, the reverse order will be more accurate: from the weakest to the strongest. You can also order your arguments according to the rule: strongest-weakest-strongest.
This formula is especially useful during public speaking. A clever and brilliant beginning and an equally clever and brilliant conclusion will be an attractive clue for the audience.
It is also worth considering which of the given sequences will be the most appropriate in a given situation.
You can write down the arguments you want to use and then arrange them according to one of the following schemes: from strongest to weakest, or from weakest to strongest, according to the rule: strongest-weakest-strongest.
Resist the attack.
Some people, when they lack substantive arguments, will strike at their adversary, if only to throw him off balance. This is one of the most common attacks encountered in public life or in everyday communication and argumentation.
The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, in his famous “The Art of Being Right,” calls it “argumentum ad personam” (to a person) and lists it last, when all other ways have failed. He writes: “If one perceives that the opponent is stronger, one will not be right in the end, one attacks him in a personal, insulting, coarse way.”
It is not worth repaying the same, because we will enter the interlocutor’s game. It is better to restrain emotions, use meaningful silence (not everything should be responded to; silence is also a comment) and, e.g., say, “Let’s go back to a factual discussion.”
You can also simply say goodbye, especially when you think that there is no room for conversation. There are people who will try to exchange arguments until the end, often with growing aggression and stubbornness. Not everyone should be debated.
Aristotle admonished us not to discuss with the first one, but only with those who value the truth and are ready to recognize that they are wrong if the truth lies on the other side. Moreover, one should look for interlocutors who have enough sense not to make absurdities of which they will later be ashamed.
Errors in reasoning
In an exchange of arguments, it is worth paying attention to the ways of reasoning not only of our adversary, but also of ourselves. Wrong reasoning leads to wrong conclusions. And here are the most common errors of reasoning (1):
Hasty generalization: something has happened to someone or several people, and therefore, it is in other cases as well. The error consists of drawing a general conclusion from a limited number of cases.
Note that this one example or several does not mean “all”, “always,” or “everyone”.
Bandwagon-“What are we going to wonder? After all, everyone does it.”
Ask “everyone, meaning who specifically?”
False analogy: “The modern pandemic is like war.” The mistake is that the referenced situation is not similar enough and therefore distorts the picture.
Consider whether the analogy is accurate.
False Reason: “Sales increased due to the advertising campaign.” Is it really so? Maybe due to changes in consumer behavior? Or maybe it is due to the company’s salespeople or new agreements with store chains? Success has many fathers, so it is worth analyzing which one of them is really him.
Get the evidence and make the case for a cause-and-effect relationship.
False authority: This occurs when someone cites a well-known expert or person who is generally respected but who does not specialize in the area being discussed. It can also be someone close to us whom we simply value or like. Children sometimes say, “Because that’s what my daddy said. Some adults also use this principle.
Don’t accept the advice of an incompetent person just because you think they are credible.
A slippery slope is the inevitability of certain consequences if you choose a certain course of action. If you give way to them once, you will always have to give way, or colloquially, “Give someone a finger and they will take your whole hand.”
Be careful with assumptions.
False alternative: “These two washing machines are really great.” Intentionally narrowing the choice to two alternatives, even though there are dozens of other washing machines around, However, it is difficult to choose from hundreds of
Do not allow yourself to limit the choice to two alternatives; ask about other options.
Argument or quarrel?
If someone represents a belief that differs from ours, it is worthwhile to present not only our own arguments, but also to learn about the arguments of the other side. This stems directly from respect for the autonomy of the interlocutor, the recognition that perspectives differ, and also from simple curiosity. Get curious about the other person, because you already know yourself.
Wise discussion or creative argument are invigorating. The goal is not necessarily to convince the adversary; the exchange of arguments is important. We recognize the rationale of the other side and will change our own convictions when our arguments are simply weaker.
At other times, through the exchange of arguments, we will strengthen our position even more. Of course, there are issues that are worth defending at all costs.
However, there are also those in which it is not worth insisting, and in fact, we should appreciate the arguments of the other side and thus verify our own. Aristotle’s golden mean principle (2) comes in handy, which says that between stinginess and extravagance is frugality.
It is different with an argument. Usually, we don’t want to hear the other side’s arguments, let alone understand them. Rather, it is a matter of tug-of-war, of showing who is right and of admitting only to oneself the right view of the matter. Such people, especially when they lack arguments, say,” It’s true for me.
Then it is worth taking a step back. It is worthwhile to take a step back and think about what the conflict is really about instead of exchanging arguments.
In the art of argumentation, a conflict of values will usually be strongest when it manifests itself in a different worldview, ethics, or religion. No less explosive is a conflict of data (e.g., lack of data, different information, or different interpretations). In essence, we argue about our perspectives instead of recognizing that we have the right to view an issue differently.
Arguing is wise because it shows the bigger picture. Arguing is toxic. Disagreement is an opening, arguing is a closing. How the other side deals with us is of little consequence.
For it is up to us what response we give to it. We don’t have to play the adversary’s toxic game. We can say, “Cool, cool, but maybe let’s focus on having a substantive conversation.”
Argumentation is an art. Therefore, at the end, I would have this advice: use the term “argument,” argue and ask for arguments, and let go if there is no space for a clever exchange of arguments. It’s not worth it for everyone.