When it comes to arguing, we all want to sound like we know what we are talking about, and we all want to win. Arguing is really an art and only those with the right know-how can master it. Unfortunately, many people choose to argue even when they have no clue what they are talking about, and if that’s not bad enough they choose to use words that they don’t know the meaning of.
The art of intelligent arguing is not something that most of us are born with, so we have to learn. It doesn’t have to be difficult; it’s all about choosing your battles, knowing what to say, and knowing when to quit. Having a quick wit also helps, but that may be something you have to be born with.
Separate Your Emotions
If you are arguing solely because someone hurt your feelings, you are only going to end up embarrassed and feel even worse than when you started. Getting all worked up during an argument only gives your opponent the upper hand, because he can now use your emotions against you. Do not get emotional; keep your composure, present your side of the argument, and provide points as to why your opponent is not right. No matter how strongly you feel, do not let it show or your opponent will just find a way to use it against you. In short; emotions are considered a weak spot during an argument and will be taken advantage of.
Tact and Respect
The point of any argument should be to resolve an issue and move forward. The person you are arguing with is likely someone that you interact with on a regular basis and you need to be able to continue the working relationship. Especially when it comes to arguments within the workplace, or even within a marriage; you’ve got to be respectful or have your whole life fall apart because of one argument that you may soon realize was not that big of a deal anyways.
Be an adult; whipping out every rude comeback you’ve ever heard on television is going to get you nowhere. Do not turn an intelligent argument into an afternoon high school fight. Think before you speak and do not say things that you know you will regret. Words cannot be taken back or forgotten, and they will remain between the two of you forever.
Resist the urge to insult at all. Insulting someone is never part of a truly intelligent argument. Insults only say that you have nothing better to say about the topic of argument and so have commenced attacking the person instead of the topic. Again, you need only present your point of view from a position of strength; you don’t need to beat your opponent over the head with it.
People tend to forget that listening is 50% of the argument. We tend to believe that to argue intelligently we need to keep talking, have the floor, say everything we need to say, and then walk away. That is not an argument, let alone an intelligent one. All you have done is thrown a tantrum like a toddler and given your opponent all the more reason to not see your point of view.
Say your piece and then stop to listen while your opponent explains his point of view. Dare to ask questions to better understand where he is coming from. Intelligent inquiries force your opponent to really think about his standpoint, and they let you know how much your opponent really knows. If it’s clear that he has very little idea what he is talking about, you know that the argument is useless. Of course, you would need to point this out tactfully; suggest that your opponent research further and you can continue your discussion later.
On the other hand, you also need to allow your opponent to question you. If you are afraid to answer questions, then perhaps you are not in a position to be defending it. Go one step further and ask your opponent if he would like to ask you any questions. The only way that you can carry on an intelligent argument is if you are ready for anything that is thrown your way.
Know What You Are Saying
If you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about, then it’s best to say nothing. If you hear something said that you think you disagree with, do some research before opening your mouth. It’s always a good idea to think first and speak later. If it’s truly an important issue, you can always bring it up at a later time. Abraham Lincoln said it best when he stated, “It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
If you are the only person in the room saying nothing, there’s a chance that people may think you aren’t intelligent, but if you begin speaking without actually knowing anything, they will know you don’t have a clue and you’ve been branded for life. Also (and it’s not necessary to elaborate much on this), do not attempt to use words that you don’t know the definition of. If you haven’t looked it up and seen how it’s used, just save it for another argument. Nothing will make you less of an intelligent arguer than if you use a totally unfitting word to defend your stance.
Arguing intelligently can actually be fun; while it may be slightly rude, it does feel good to put people in their place. As long as you have a clear and firm standpoint, keep your emotions in check, be respectful, and listen to every point of view, you will master the art in no time.