“Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” – Jalaluddin Rumi
If you find yourself often losing arguments, you’re probably getting frustrated with it. Whether you’re having a spirited debate over politics, or current events, feeling like you’re not gaining the upper hand with your points is something that no one likes to experience.
“In an argument, your appraisal that you’re losing, your belief that you need to be “right,” and the extent to which you like the other person can all have an impact on the emotions you experience,” says author and professor of psychology Susan Krauss Whitbourne.
Fortunately, science has come through with a way for those of us who can’t seem to stand our ground to win in an argument. If you’re not naturally good at debating, these tricks can help you become better at arguing and even help you win the argument and help people see your side of things.
Here Are 9 Ways To Win The Argument (and End It)
1. Have your opponent explain their thoughts first
You should ask open-ended questions that encourage them to explain their thought process and their argument. You can’t accurately debate someone without first understanding why they think the way they do, or even what their entire argument is. The other person is more likely to listen to your rebuttals when you first let them get their entire thought out before interrupting them or engaging them in an argument.
2. Mirror your opponent’s body language
You don’t want to be obvious about it, but subtly mirroring your opponent is a good way to get them to trust you, and thus make them more likely to listen to what you have to say. If the person that you’re debating is sitting cross-legged, try copying them as subtly as you can. Try not to mirror every single movement that they make, or you’ll just look like you’re mocking them! The key is to look natural!
“Mirroring builds agreement; you can often head off potential trouble by establishing a strong basis of nonverbal agreement before the real negotiating begins,” adds life coach, author and communication theorist Nick Morgan.
3. Make eye contact when a conversation starts
When your opponent begins speaking, make sure to maintain eye-contact while they’re talking. This is scientifically proven to make your opponent less persuasive, which means that you’ll have the upper hand when it comes to providing counter-arguments. As soon as they start talking, make sure to maintain eye-contact throughout their argument.
4. Repeat what you understand their argument to be
Before launching into your own counter-argument, make sure to paraphrase their own back to them from what you understand them to have said. This is an easy way to develop trust with your opponent, because it proves that you were listening to them in the first place instead of just waiting to get your argument in. When your opponent feels they can trust you, it’ll be easier to make your own argument more persuasive.
“In the heat of battle, we often counterattack reflexively without making sure we’ve heard the other party. It wastes time and makes you look bad,” explains speech and presentation coach Sims Wyeth.
5. Acknowledge their points
If you agree with parts of their argument, make sure to tell them what parts and why, before you start presenting your own argument. This will help your opponent feel encouraged to consider your points of view once you present them, because you’re affirming the things that they’ve said.
6. Know your facts like the back of your hand
“How many times have you made a claim about some piece of trivia only to realize, as soon as you’ve made that claim, that you’re completely wrong? Inevitably, someone challenges you, but because you don’t want to “lose,” you continue to stick to your guns,” adds Whitbourne.
Therefore, when presenting your counter-arguments, make sure you know what you’re talking about. If you can’t explain your argument when asked to expand on certain points, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Make sure you know your argument inside and out before presenting it. Nothing will make you lose an argument faster than not being able to expand on your points.
7. Prompt your opponent to agree with you
Ending your statements with verbal affirmations will prompt your opponent to see things from your point of view, and end up agreeing with your points. Ending your statement with things like “…wouldn’t you?” or “…isn’t it?” will make your opponent more likely to concede to your arguments.
8. Lower your voice
During the argument, try not to raise your voice. This is more likely to put someone into fight or flight mode, and shut them off from considering your points of view.
“Be mindful of your emotions. When anger and fear overtake you, your cause will be weakened. Be passionate. Be expressive. But stay calm and carry on. Anger makes you less appealing,” adds Wyeth.
When you lower your voice, it will make people more at ease and trusting. This is key to getting people to be persuaded to your point of view.
9. Identify shared ground
Most importantly, make sure you maintain a positive atmosphere throughout the argument. Pointing out the things that you and your opponent agree on will make them more likely to listen to the things that you don’t, and may even persuade them to accept your point of view. This can help your power of persuasion.
If you’re not a natural born debater, getting into an argument can be pretty intimidating. Luckily, there are ways to make your debating skills stronger and make your points more persuasive, all backed by science! You may not persuade everyone with these tricks, but you’re definitely going to be getting more people to listen to your point of view than before. At the very least, you’ll start to feel more confident when it comes to arguments and debating the things you believe in!