Top 10 Effective Argument Tactics

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If you’re like most people, you probably don’t enjoy arguing. It’s upsetting, and usually doesn’t resolve much, merely creating added tension. Conflict is notoriously difficult to handle, and many people avoid arguing simply to avoid confronting their problems. Of course, that also means they have to live with the way their life is going, because sometimes, if you don’t ask for something, you’ll never get it.

The bottom line is, there are times when you need to argue, to get your point across, be heard and have your say, and knowing how to argue effectively can mean the difference between a useful, informative exchange, which leads to a resolution, and an undignified screaming match.

The art of effective arguing is a skill learnt over time, and, all too often, it’s something we have to learn the hard way. You don’t learn it at home, or at school, and you’ll need to practice every once in a while, in order to master the skill.

In the mean time, you could fake it till you make it, with our top ten effective argument tactics that will help you perfect your arguing style:

1. Know Your Goal


As with everything in life, effective arguing requires a goal. If you don’t know what you want to get out of the argument, whether it is a raise at work, or more help around the house, you’ll end up arguing in circles, and never get anywhere. Before you even engage the person, or people, that you need to argue with, figure out exactly what the ideal resolution to your argument is, and start from there.

If you aren’t one hundred percent sure of your goal, you will be more likely to venture off the track, be drawn into petty fights, or settle for less than you’re willing to. Stick to the facts, keep your eye on the prize, and don’t allow yourself to be drawn off topic.

2. Get Your Ducks in a Row


Make sure you know your facts. If you’re arguing for a raise, for example, gather proof that you are going above and beyond the call of duty, and are an asset to the company.

When gathering evidence, or information that you will use in your argument, be as specific as possible. For example, in the above mentioned scenario, mention that you put in an average of five hours of overtime per week. Sounds a lot more convincing than “I work overtime a lot.” Facts and figures are the cornerstone of your argument, so have them ready for when you need them!

Take some time to sit down, and figure out exactly what it is that supports your argument best. If necessary, get documented proof, for instance, if you’re arguing with your spouse about chores around the house, take photos of their wet towel lying on the floor. Make sure there’s a date stamp, and take a picture every time you have to pick that towel up. That way, when you argue with them, and they deny everything, you will have proof to back up your argument.

If your argument is valid, there must be some proof, so make sure you have it in your arsenal.

3. Write a Script


When we say script, not word for word, but prepare your argument on paper. Figure out what you are going to say, what evidence you are going to use, and how you are going to raise the issue that will lead you to your goal.
Knowing what you are going to say before you go into an argument can help you stick to the facts, and reach a satisfactory resolution quicker and easier than just throwing random information out there, in the hopes that something will work!

Jot down your ideas, then take it a step further, and jot down possible responses to your arguments. Think of all the possible rebuttals you could hear, and come up with valid, concrete answers for them. If it helps, you could even practice your script or argument with a friend, or even in front of the mirror, to give yourself a “dry run” before the big event!

4. Speak Your Mind


You might be someone who avoids conflict. Someone who would like to say something, but who keeps it all bottled up inside. Of course, there are two possible outcomes for that: one, you keep it in for good, quietly seething to yourself, becoming resentful and angry. The second possibility is that you can’t keep it in, and you lose it one day, screaming, shouting, quitting your job, or similarly catastrophic results.

Since neither of those results in you getting what you want, they should not be options. Choose to argue smart, make your preparations, and get what you want. The whole point of an argument, regardless of the cause, or goal of the argument, is to convince the other party that your point of view is correct. Failing that, to reach an amicable compromise.

If you feel strongly enough about anything, eventually you are going to have to speak your mind, just make sure that you state your case as eloquently and succinctly as possible, while still raising all the points you believe are relevant, and presenting the evidence you feel should be considered.

5. Listen


While we’re always sure that we have the only valid point of view, there may be valid points from the opposing side as well as yours. Take care to listen and consider their views, rather than single mindedly refusing to accept the possibility that someone else’s opinion may also have merit.

Listening to others is also just plain good manners, and since you’re arguing because you want something, you’d be well served to maintain politeness, and show your opponent you value their input. After all, as the saying goes – do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

If you’re not prepared to listen, or to compromise, or consider other opinions, what you’re aiming for is not an argument. It’s a dictatorship. You have to consider the views of others on their merit, in order to achieve your goals, so force yourself to pay attention. You might even find that they suggest a better resolution than you hoped for, or even thought of!

6. Respond to Valid Points


If the person you are arguing with raises valid points, you need to address them logically. This is where the preparation pays off. If you’ve gathered your information correctly, and your thinking is sound, you should have an argument that is up to the challenge. If, however, the points they have raised make sense to you, you may need to rethink your goal, or at least be willing to negotiate.

Remember, if you don’t have a suitable response, you may not have thought through your argument enough. If you find yourself at a loss to explain your position, you may want to draw back, rethink your position, and try again another day.

7. Stay Calm


Raised voices, insults and accusations are the fastest ways to take a potentially valuable argument from useful to embarrassing or even allow it to morph into an undignified brawl.

Make sure that you keep your tone of voice, and body language respectful, and never use foul language or threatening gestures to try and make a point. In fact, if you are angry or upset, rather avoid the argument, and make an appointment to discuss the matter later.

Often, you will find that people will try to draw you in to a fight to distract you from the main point. If you remain calm, focus on the goal, and refuse to be baited, eventually, they will have to discuss the matter with you rationally.

If you’ve ever watched a court room drama, you’ll know that lawyers rarely ever get emotional in court. That’s exactly what you want to aim for – calm, detached presentation of the facts, followed by debate, negotiation, and eventually, hopefully, a resolution you can both live with.

8. Use “I” Statements


When arguing, try to use statements like “I feel” or “I’ve noticed” to describe your feelings or events. Nothing gets people’s back up as quickly as being accused of something, and using any sentence that starts with “You always…” is guaranteed to do just that.

If you concentrate on always starting your sentences with I, you should make it clear that this is about your feelings, rather than with something they have done, or failed to do. Consider the difference between the statements “I feel I am worth more to the company” and “You don’t pay me enough.” Notice how the first one just seems more respectful? That’s exactly what you’re going for.

Keep your observations to your own experience, and leave the assumptions out of the picture. Make sure you present your opinions, but do so in a way that respects your opponents right to their own. You’re aiming to find middle ground here – not make an enemy for life!

9. Watch Your Body Language


As we’ve mentioned before, body language, as much as words, can lead an argument quickly into a fight. Avoid crossing your arms, maintain a suitable distance, avoiding getting into your opponent’s personal space, and never use gestures such as finger pointing. Likewise, nothing is likely to infuriate your opponent as quickly as rolling your eyes, or an elaborate sigh.
Unless you’re looking for a fight, your body language, gestures and tone should be respectful at all times.

Then again, if you’re arguing for something, like a raise, you also want to present the image that you are confident that you are correct. Showing signs of nervousness, stress or anxiety, like wringing your hands, or playing with your hair, can betray that nervousness, and may lead to someone, like your boss, picking up on and using that nervousness to their advantage, with the result that you lose the argument.

Aim for impassive, relaxed body language. If you can, stand when you address someone who is seated, which puts you at a physical height advantage, and therefore a mental position of power. The more calm and logical you look, the more likely you are to achieve more in your argument. Keep your hands still, make eye contact, and avoid excessive displays of emotion.

10. Know Your Fall Back Position


When we argue, we always have an ideal in mind. A 20% raise, for example. However, we usually also have a minimum that we’re willing to accept. Maybe 10% would be satisfactory. For now. Perhaps you would be willing to consider something else instead? For example, if you are arguing with your spouse for more help around the house, maybe you’d be willing to consider hiring help?

Make sure you know, before you even start an argument, where your fallback position is. What the minimum you’re willing to settle for is. That way, even if you get a no on your ideal, you have some room to negotiate. Compromise is better than losing, isn’t it?

Then again, if your opponent won’t even raise their suggestions for resolution to meet your minimum requirement, you’re probably fighting a losing battle, and looking for other resolutions may be your best course of action. Once you know where you draw the line, you’ll know when to cut your losses, stop fighting a losing battle, and move on to more productive pursuits.

Of course, there’s always a chance, in any argument, that your opponent will throw you a complete curveball, suggest something you’d never considered, or raise an argument or rebuttal you’d never thought of. Be willing to consider any options, arguments or statements that your opponent may raise, and remember, just because you’ve started the argument, put the matter on the table, and raised the question, does not mean you need to finish it in one sitting.

If needs be, withdraw, schedule another appointment, rethink your argument, strategy and goal, and try again. After all, your goal is worth it, isn’t it? And as the saying goes – Rome wasn’t built in a day.