Okay, kind of a misleading title because if you set out to “win” an argument you aren’t likely to get very far. I’ve seen a lot of arguments lately on facebook and other places, where people take a side on an issue and take the stance that anyone who disagrees with them is just plain wrong. There’s a tendency to dispense with any tact and go right for the “and if you can’t see that your wrong, you’re just ignorant, stupid, (or pick your adjective). This type of communication rarely convinces the person to change their mind and will likely make them dig in their heels even more.
I’ve never met anyone who responds well to criticism, especially when it’s harsh criticism. People often just dig in and defend themselves or their position more intently.
So how do you change your communication strategy and convince someone to listen to your side of things? Start by assuming they have good reasons for thinking, feeling, or behaving the way they do. For them, they are doing something that makes sense and there are good reasons (as far as they are concerned) for what they are doing. If you try to understand those reasons before you try to convince them to entertain other ways of thinking about it, you’ll get further. So to win an argument, you’ll want to treat it as more of a discussion than an argument or debate. When you enter into a debate or argument, the idea is that someone wins and someone loses–and who likes losing?. If you have a discussion, it’s more about communicating thoughts and ideas and seeing if you can learn from each other. This should keep things from getting heated and allow the other person to listen and think about what you are saying. The other person has reasons for thinking and feeling the way they do that make sense to them based on their experiences. Start by accepting this and then see if you can provide an alternative way to view a situation. However, keep in mind that you also have to be willing to really listen to and think about what they are saying for this to really work.
Gary Watson is a Solution Focused Therapist in Grand Rapids Michigan. He provides counseling for couples, counseling for teenagers, and adults. He provides counseling for anxiety, depression, stress, college and work stress, and relationship problems. For more information, please visit the website at www.turnaboutcounseling.com.