No one sets out to lose an argument. We all want to be right when engaged in a verbal battle. Sometimes, it can get emotional or heated, and losing an argument can be a brutal blow to one’s ego.
The word “argument” has a lot of negative connotation to it, often bringing to mind ideas of shouting, slamming doors, and red faces. But arguments aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, they are merely simple discussions over disagreements of opinion or debates about the next best course of action.
Still, regardless of the nature of an argument, your goal, if you’re one of those participating, will likely be to win. But you may have noticed that some people naturally win arguments, while others need to put in a little more effort to win.
The good news is that there are scientifically proven ways that guarantee you won’t fumble on your words or let your emotions get the best of you. It’s all about understanding yourself, your opponent, and proper debate etiquette. Here is the way science explains how to never lose an argument.
Science Explains How To Never Lose An Argument
“Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” – Rumi
1. Start Off On The Right Foot.
If you don’t start the right way, finishing as a victor won’t be nearly as easy. If you don’t want to lose an argument, pay attention to how you get into one in the first place.
- First, get yourself in the right frame of mind. Be aware of the context of the argument about to ensue. Essentially, you need to approach the argument keeping certain situational factors in mind.
- Prepare your tone and points based on the situation and the person you’re arguing with. For example, you wouldn’t argue with family in a private setting the same way you’d argue in a public setting with a colleague. This is as important as the statements you choose to contribute to the argument.
- The next thing you’ll want to do is ask the person you’re arguing with to expand on their own points first. Ask them questions that are open-ended and coax them into giving you a full explanation.
- Get your opponent to expand on their thought process and point of view. This will set the precedent for the rest of your argument.
- The person will recognize that you value their thoughts and are truly listening to them, which will cause them to be more open to listening to you. It will also give you the chance to properly understand their points and formulate a good response.
2. Pay Attention To Body Language.
Body language is highly important in communication. Most experts believe it’s just as important as verbal communication. If you’re trying to win an argument, you’ll definitely want to keep this in mind.
For starters, mirror the other person’s general body language in a subtle way. This can be as simple as crossing your legs shortly after they do or nodding at the same time. Don’t overdo it, of course! You shouldn’t be constantly copying every move they make or they might feel you are mocking them.
Done in the right way, mirroring can increase your opponent’s feelings of trust in you. This means that when it’s your time to start speaking, they’ll be more likely to believe you and find your points dependable.
You’ll also want to be mindful of the level of eye contact you maintain. It’s a common misconception that persistent eye-contact makes you more persuasive and your opponent less persuasive. Studies have shown it’s actually the exact opposite.
So if you don’t want to lose an argument, don’t be too intense with your eye contact when you’re explaining your points, but increase your eye contact when your opponent is trying to persuade you. According to one study, this will ensure you’re persuasive enough while your opponent becomes less convincing.
3. Know Your Opponent.
Your opponent in an argument isn’t necessarily your enemy. That said, “Know thy enemy” still applies here.
Knowing the personality of your opponent in an argument can help you understand how best to speak to them. There are some people who tend to be more reactive when responding to arguments. Essentially, appealing to emotion works best with them.
Then, there are others who are more analytical. With these people, you’ll want to make sure your facts are well supported and pay more attention to this than trying to get the opponent to empathize.
It’s also a good idea to keep in mind what your opponent’s moral alignment is. This includes their political preferences and ideologies. This can be complicated. Since there are so many things people can believe in, let’s make this simpler!
According to a framework created by social psychologists known as the moral foundations theory, people tend to see the world through binaries. This means they view things through very obvious positive and negative sides. The six most common of these binaries are:
- Fairness and cheating
- Authority and subversion
- Care and harm
- Loyalty and betrayal
- Liberty and oppression
- Sanctity and degradation
Use these binaries to your advantage. As an example, an individual who is of a liberal political view will probably consider care vs harm and fairness vs cheating their go-to subconscious binaries. Meanwhile, those who are conservative in their ideals may see the world through loyalty vs betrayal and authority vs subversion binaries.
Being aware of these binaries will help you to present good arguments designed to appeal to your opponent. Instead of explaining things using binaries they don’t relate to, you’ll be appealing to your opponent’s ethics, helping them see things from your side.
Of course, we know you can’t always know a lot about your “sparring partner” beforehand. But if you do know them, use that to your advantage!
4. Understand, Use, and Appeal To Emotion – Within Limits.
Although more analytical people prefer facts over emotional appeal, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still human. If you argue without any emotion, you’re showing yourself as more of a robot than a real person. This is a surefire way to lose an argument.
- All arguments have emotional sides to them, even when they are primarily based on fact. As such, it’s alright to mention personal feelings or feelings of others. With personal, private life arguments, talking about the emotional aspects may actually help the root of the problem emerge more easily.
- Don’t go overboard on the emotion when you’re in a workplace or other professional environment.
- Appeal to empathy to some degree. For instance, you can personify your argument through the example of a real person.
- Research has shown that people are more likely to empathize with sole individuals than groups of people, so use this to encourage your opponent to fully empathize with you.
- Don’t use big examples unless you want to lose an argument!
- Additionally, don’t be afraid to contextualize an argument through storytelling. A prime example of how effective storytelling can be is seen in TED Talks. This is because telling a relevant and well-delivered story mixes fact and emotion together in a winning combination.
In a nutshell, arguments based entirely on fact alone will fail, yet those based entirely on emotion fail, too. Keep a balance of both to win an argument.
5. Subconsciously Influence and Persuade The Argument.
There are plenty of ways to use cues to get an opponent in an argument to nod along. These subtle actions will influence your opponent on a subconscious level, persuading them without them even realizing it.
As mentioned previously, this research also concludes that mirroring body language correctly is a surefire way to never lose an argument. Mimic their movements and posture in balanced, subtle ways to encourage the other person to connect with you.
In addition, you can provide a prompt to your opponent to encourage them to agree. Use phrases like:
- …isn’t it?
- …wouldn’t you?
- …don’t you think?
These types of prompts will allow your opponent to naturally try to see things from your perspective. In all likelihood, they will nod along, and this can even cause them to concede, giving you the positive outcome you desire.
6. Argue Maturely and Smartly.
Arguments can get emotional, but don’t let them get to you. Learn to argue and present points intelligently and in a calm, responsible manner.
- Practice good argument etiquette by showing you care about what your opponent has to say. Before you present your counter-argument, positively acknowledge what they’ve said to you.
- Paraphrase what you understood from their perspective to show you have listened well. This will help your argument opponent to feel a level of trust towards you. They will feel understood and will likely listen to you more easily, and it will be easier to persuade them to your side.
- Acknowledging the validity of your opponent’s perspective is crucial when you don’t want to lose an argument.
- It’s natural to launch into a counter quickly and on instinct, but this stops us from fully listening to the other person, preventing any progress from being made.
- If you find yourself agreeing with some parts of what your opponent says, tell them that you do and explain why. They are then more likely to be more open-minded when listening to you. They will probably find things they also agree with and will maintain more positive thinking overall.
Don’t forget to keep the atmosphere around the debate nice and positive. Find ground and beliefs that overlap and that both of you share. This can drop someone’s defenses, allowing them to be more easily persuaded. It also keeps the relationship you have with them intact!
7. Keep It Civil and Be The Bigger Person.
When in an argument, always stay calm. Use a low, gentle voice and stay relaxed, speaking slowly and clearly. This will help you tame your personal emotions, especially if you tend to be a little hot-headed.