How Can I Win an Argument?

The short answer is, you can’t. Arguments don’t solve problems and nobody wins. Plain and simple. Most married couples will confirm that neither of them leaves an argument feeling like a winner. So, why is that? Because by telling someone they’re wrong, you’ve struck a direct blow at their intelligence, judgment, pride, ego, and self-respect. Their first instinct is not to agree with you but to strike back in defensiveness. Even if in the end you feel you’ve “won” the argument, you’ve lost your partner’s goodwill. The only way to win is to avoid the argument altogether.

In Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” he references an article from Bits and Pieces about how to keep a disagreement from becoming an argument. These tips can be implemented in any relationship, whether it be in a marriage or a working environment.

How to Keep a Disagreement from Becoming an Argument:

1.) Welcome the disagreement. Remember the slogan, “when two partners always agree, one of them is not necessary.” If there is some point you haven’t thought about, be thankful if it is brought to your attention. Perhaps the disagreement is your opportunity to be corrected before you make a serious mistake.

2.) Distrust your first instinctive impression. Our first natural reaction is to be defensive. Keep calm. Your first reaction may be you at your worst, not your best.

3.) Control your temper. Remember you can measure the size of a person by what makes them angry.

4.) Listen first. Give your opponent an opportunity to speak and let them finish without resisting, defending, or debating.

5.) Try to build bridges of understanding. Don’t build higher bridges of misunderstanding.

6.) Look for areas of agreement. When you have heard your opponents out, dwell first on the points and areas on which you agree.

7.) Be honest. Look for areas where you can admit error and say so. Apologize for your mistakes. It will help disarm your opponents and reduce defensiveness.

8.) Promise to think over your opponent’s ideas and study them carefully. And mean it. Your opponent may be right. It will be a lot easier at this stage to agree to think about their points than to move rapidly ahead of yourself in a position where your opponents can say “I told you so” or “we tried to tell you but you wouldn’t listen.”

9.) Thank your opponent sincerely for their interest. Anyone who takes the time to disagree with you is interested in the same things you are. Think of them as people who really want to help you and you may turn your opponents into friends.

10.) Postpone action to give both sides time to think through the problem (and calm down). Suggest that a new meeting be held later that day or the next day, when all the facts may be brought to bear.

Finally, ask yourself these questions when met with a disagreement:

Will my reaction relieve the problem or will it just relieve my frustration?
Will my reaction drive my opponents away or draw them closer to me?
Will my reaction elevate the estimation good people have of me?
Will I win or lose?
What price will I have to pay if I win?
If I am quiet about it, will this disagreement blow over?
Is this difficult situation an opportunity for me?

If you want to come out on the other side of a disagreement a winner, avoid arguments at all costs. By using these tools, you will create solid partnerships at home and work and maintain goodwill with your opponents.


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Diana Keeler