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How to win an argument

Published : Sunday, 31 December, 2023 at 12:00 AM  Count : 935

How to win an argument

How to win an argument

I attempt to persuade my wife and son, who recentlyarrived in the United Kingdom, to settle here. My college-going, technology-savvy son believes he can earn enough while living in Sylhet, the city where he grew up and completed his GCSEs. Arguments intensify when I try to convince him that its not just about money; safety matters too. The teenage boyis not aware thatin Bangladesh police can arrest the mother of a three-year-old girl if they don find her politically accused father at home, without any accountability.

Enticing others to our way of thinking is not easy - whether in everyday family interactions, professional engagements, or political debates. It involvesnavigating through the challenging issuessuch asemotion,individual priorities, maturity, intellectual depth, generational gaps, among others.

However, the most effective approach to wining an argument commitsshowing kindness, compassion,honesty, and friendliness, as suggested by studies. We are more likely to achieve ourgoal of changing someones minds byadvancing with humility and praise rather than hostility. The deepest urge in human nature is the desire to beimportant, great, and appreciated. Affirming respect for the person, even when conveyinghard truths, fosters a more receptive environment for meaningful dialogue and persuasion.

In one of the most confidence-boosting books - How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie presents the following secret rules for winning people over:

Show genuine interest in the other person and talk in their terms, Smile, Listen actively and encourage others to talk freely, Make the other person feel important and respect their opinion, Ask questions instead of giving direct orders, Give people honest appreciation and address their mistakes indirectly, Avoid personal attacks and Find common ground.

David Robinson, author of The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Do Stupid Things and How to Make Wiser Decisions,outlines six scientific methods: reframe the issue, ask how instead of why, maintain a calm and friendly attitude, appeal to values not affiliations, debunk conspiracy theories with a convincing story, and be kind.

Applying theseprinciples undoubtedly serves as a valuable guide for fostering essentialconnections and positivelyinfluencing others. However,another school of behavioural psychologysuggests too much optimism and softness maydiminish motivationand the hunger for persuasion, as cautioned by Psychologist Gabriele Oettingen of New York University.

Agreatmotivator must possessnatural talents - the ability toadd a touch in their words, charm in their approaches, and flawlessness in their appearances.The great Greek philosopher Socratesalluredhis fellow Athenian by saying, "One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing." And Marcus Tullius Cicero, ancient Romes greatest orator,impressed hiscountrymen with powerful speaking techniques, even when inciting them against the ruling class.He argued that the best orator is one who is able to stir the emotions of his audience.

Regardless of whether one is an honest communicator or a skilled manipulator, power cansometimes overshadow the logical merits of an argument.In certain situations, individuals or entities with significant power may be able to shape narratives, manipulate perceptions, or enforce decisions in ways that diverge fromlogical reasoning but serve their ownagenda.

An example ofpoweroverlappingwith rational thinking occurredwhen,recently passed,the former US Secretary of State Henry Kissingerinfluenced then American President Richard Nixonto support the Pakistanmilitarys killing of hundreds of thousands of people fighting for an independent Bangladesh in 1971. This move was aimed at bringing China, an ally of Pakistan, away fromthe Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Money can significantly influence the outcomes of an argument. In debates or negotiations, those with financial means might bolster their position compared tothose without. Research is uncovering that wealth impacts our sense of morality, relationships with others, and our mental health.Psychologists studying the impact of wealth and inequality on human behaviour have found that money can not only powerfully influence our thoughts but also our actions when dealing with friends, colleagues, and neighbours.

Understanding how to mutually agree to disagree, especially whenconsensus proves elusive,can minimise disappointment.Always begin a conversationon things that are mutually agreed. But when it becomes unproductive or overtly emotional, its sometimes best to step back and revisit the discussion later. In the realm of persuasion, aconversation may turn in the wrong direction, carrying the potential of permanently losing someone.Therefore, Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist and the author of Think Again,argues that the essential element for effective argumentation lies in maintaining an open mindand embracing new ideas.

Being diplomatic helps us get our pointacross. Even whenwe certain that someone is making a wrong statement - its better to respond by saying, "Well, I may be wrong, but lets examine the facts." These magic words can inspire our opponent to admit that they, too, may be wrong.Nothing good is accomplished, and a lot of damage can be done if we tell a person straight out that he or she is wrong. This can strip away theirself-dignity and making ourselves unwelcome in any future discussion.

Moreover, winning an argument does not necessarily mean proving to the other person that you are right. It can mean reaching a mutual understanding or finding a compromise.

Lets believe that people are generally rational in their arguments, acknowledging the boundaries of their knowledge and understanding. Thus, treating others with respect and compassionin interactionsstand out as a winning technique.As Lady Mary Wortley Montagu eloquently articulated in the 18th century: "Civility costs nothing and buys everything."

Iharbour the hopethat the triumph of logic, intellect, and honesty - rather than power, money or force - prevails in shaping arguments.The aspiration is for my son to safely earn his living in Bangladesh, should he choose to do so.

The writer is a London-based freelance journalist






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