Being a dad, and working in a customer service department by day, for several years now, I feel I have taught myself the art of winning arguments.
I should point out, though, that winning an argument isn’t exactly what you might think. It’s not simply convincing the other person to agree with you and to officially admit they are wrong and you are right.
Because that would simply be superficial.
Instead, my definition of winning an arguments is this:
Establishing yourself as the leader of the current conflicted conversation and helping the two of your move forward together in the same positive direction.
With that being said, here are my 5 simple psychological steps to winning an argument:
1. Let the other person carry all the emotion, which in contrast, sets them up as the unstable, irrational person.
2. Do not rebuttal their claims. Instead, remain silent, look into their eyes, while not shaking your head “yes” or “no”, nor saying “mmm hmm” or “okay” to imply you agree or disagree, all while mentally collecting their most incriminating and accusatory statements against you, which will likely include them using illegitimate and impossible claims like “you always” and “you never”. Make sure you don’t smile, as smiling can be perceived as insincere and/or condescending.
3. Instead of you bringing up any offensive actions on their part which led to this confrontation, when they finish speaking, ask them to clarify statements only from the existing conversation, asking, “I just want to make sure I am hearing you correctly. Are you saying…?” Keep it in question format, which prevents your words from becoming a claim against them. Apologize for the confusion on your part if they disagree with the question you ask based on their statements.
4. State no opinions of your own. Speak only using undeniable facts as well as direct quotes that they used just minutes earlier in the conversation. Get them to agree with these facts and quotes, by asking, “I want to make sure we’re on the same page right now. Do we both agree that…?” Then state an undeniable fact or one of their quotes, not an opinion or claim; which helps back up your own point using statements they either already agree with or having at least stated already on their part. At this point they will likely begin back-peddling their claims against you as they begin to hear how extreme and emotional their earlier statements were.
5. Make it clear you want peace with them and want to bring positive closure to the incident. Apologize for offending/hurting their feelings by acknowledging exactly what you did their hurt them emotionally; which is often the actual issue; their own perception of an emotional attack. Ask them, “What can I do right now to work together with you to resolve this? I want to move forward together with you. What I can do differently on my part? I want to take responsibility here.” If they give you no answer, offer your own suggestion, beginning with, “I feel that maybe what I can do differently on my part is…” Then follow up with, “How do you feel about that approach?” Even if they at best indifferently agree to your proposed solution, finalize the deal by closing with, “I could definitely be wrong about the solution here, but based on our conversation today, it seems like the best option right now. We’ll try it- and if it doesn’t work after a few weeks, we’ll try a new approach.
By default, you have just won the argument. You have clearly and sincerely demonstrated that you have listened carefully without attacking them, using their own “ammunition” in a more proactive, positive, constructive way as you recognize it as something you yourself are willing to specifically and personally address and alter your own behavior accordingly.
From there, it makes it quite difficult for them to see you as an adversary, but instead, a stable and confident leader who is worth trusting. Even though you “won,” you have much responsibility to actually carry out the solution, in addition to having helped the other person mutually discover, understand, and agree to that solution with you.
Here’s the 4 minute video version: