5 Simple Psychological Steps to Winning an Argument, by Nick Shell

5 Simple Psychological Steps to Winning an Argument

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:

iContact: Behind the Thought Process of Keeping Eye Contact with Another Person

Standing up straight. Having a firm handshake.  Maintaining eye contact. And the greatest of these is maintaining eye contact.

Throughout my life those three tips of advice have been constantly bouncing around in my head, though ultimately they end up like the failed attempts of a person who makes the same New Year’s Revolution every year and never keeps it. Maybe I could be a stronger leader, influence more people, and have more friends if I could simply act on these commonly heard instructions on being a successful man. Perhaps then I could be a successful motivational speaker (one that doesn’t live in a van down by the river). Or the next Billy Mays.

Looking another human straight into the eyes is like staring into the person’s soul. If I’m not thinking about it, I can look a person in the eyes for a long time while I am talking to them. But then I tend to think about the fact that I am looking at them in the eyes.

Then it’s all I can do to just look in one of their eyes because it’s too intense to look in both. Then I wonder if they can tell I’m just looking in one eye. Then I think about what I’m thinking about, but start to laugh because I realized I shouldn’t be thinking this much about it. Then I realize I don’t even know what the person is saying at this point, but conveniently they were saying something that was at kinda funny so my smirk has a purpose.

Eye contact is a learned skill. But sometimes I feel like it’s a natural born talent.

Wearing sunglasses is cheating. If I wear sunglasses, the other person tends to assume I am actually looking them in the eyes. It’s also an advantage to me because they don’t know exactly where to look since they can’t see my pupils so they get distracted. That causes them to agree with everything I say, and laugh sometimes, hoping I was telling a funny story. The secret to being a strong leader, having more friends, and influencing people is to wear sunglasses.

And to stand up straight and shake peoples’ hands firmly, like an Alpha Male boyfriend does when he meets a guy friend of his girlfriend who may pose a possible threat because the guy friend is artistic and funny. When the truth is, the boyfriend’s real threat is that the guy friend is a better listener and more sensitive. Seen it happen more than once in college.

Living in a Van down by the River

It’s Open Mic Night for motivational speakers.  I’m up…

Mission statements are lame.  So dumb.  Glorified BS.  They don’t motivate me whatsoever.  I remember in 8th grade our middle school bought a big banner with our new official mission statement on it and posted it near the main office.  To mock the concept, I memorized it and quoted it as fast as I could like that Micro Machines guy from the ‘80’s, every day as I walked to lunch with Mrs. Ray’s English class.

Ultimately what every mission statement boils down to is this: “I will do my best to please The Man, therefore The Establishment and The System, and by successfully doing so, ultimately, I will please Society.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  That’s just how life works.  Simple American reality.  It’s that mindset that helps a random group of people find a focus that will keep them unified and motivated.

I don’t need a lofty mission statement.  Just tell me the rules.  Tell me the expectations.  Give me a chance to learn the culture.  Then once I fit in, I can focus on utilizing my actual talents and skills in order to show my worth in that society, in addition to getting the job done.  That makes me an individual, despite having to confirm to the norm.

The Man is good.  Thank God for the man.  He gives me the opportunity to make money without having to depend on starting my own business and having to keep up with all that overheard and stress.  Until I can find a way to make a good living off of this website or end up writing a successful book, I depend on The Man.

I like The Man.  But I am not The Man.

The Man

The Establishment and The System are great too.  They are the structure to my means of earning a living.  If The Establishment or The System only allows me to wear jeans on Friday but not Monday through Thursday, then I will go along with that silly Simon Says game.  Individuality has its place, but rocking the boat outside of a moral issue isn’t cool.

And Society.  The good with the bad.  Enough capable people these days are choosing not to reach their full potential, which provides an opportunity for an average guy like to me step in and become qualified for a role in society that I wouldn’t normally be eligible for.

Which gives me new experience.  Which earns me new skills.

And for those in society who are the overachievers, well, they become my role models.  I watch every move they make so I become like them.  So, yeah, society is a good thing too.

I should become a motivational speaker and take my “No BS Mission Statement” idea to the road.  Power point presentations.  Laser pointers.  Wearing a suit jacket with jeans on the last day of the conference.  I can see it now…  (Looks up, turning head towards Stage Left with glazed over eyes, hands clasped together up to chest, while a harp-like sound effect begins.)

“Try to picture the man to always have an open hand and see him as a giving tree.  See him as matter, matter of fact he’s not a beast.  No, not the devil either.  Always a good dead doer.  And it’s laughter that we’re making after all.”

– “Live High” by Jason Mraz

Related Posts by the Same Author:

The Modern Day Tortoise  http://wp.me/pxqBU-kP

Life is Just Simply Showing Up  http://wp.me/pxqBU-kf

The Modern Day Tortoise

The principle of “working smart” is often seen as the shaggy, scruffy twin brother of “working hard”. Working Smart isn’t actually lazy, it’s just that he earned an online Master’s degree in time management and puts it to good use. He’s good at not wasting his time on daily goose chases, but stays consistent with the mundane tasks plus gambles on high-end pay-offs on a constant basis. I am a self-proclaimed Smart Worker. That doesn’t mean I don’t work hard; it means while I’m working I may not look busy, but I still end up being just as productive (if not more) than those who look busy while working.

I see the fable of “The Tortoise and the Hare” as a visualization of Working Smart vs. Working Hard. The tortoise isn’t bothered by the hype around him; he stays on the steady path. He knows the importance of patience. He keeps his eyes on the prize as his competitors burn their best energy on passing him. And later on when they grow tired or bored, his consistent progress wins him the prize.

As Dr. Phil says, “you do what works for you.” I have been Working Smart, not hard, my whole life. It was officially 1992 (5th grade) when I realized I wouldn’t actually need math beyond basic algebra, or science beyond a baking soda and vinegar volcano, since I knew I’d never want to be an engineer or doctor. I also noticed that though I had never studied for a spelling test, every week I got “105” for my score (I always got the “challenge words” right too) and that my Reading and English classes required little effort, yet those classes challenged me in a fun way. Instead of trying to be an all around great student, why not just focus on what comes easy for me and get by on the other stuff?

Stress causes cancer, heart disease, and loss of hair. Working Smart involves avoiding unnecessary stress when at all possible.

I was the dreaded nightmare to school officials when it came to those yearly standardized tests to measure the school system’s progress; I only tried on the English and Reading sections because they entertained me. For the rest of the subjects, I either marked “C” or made a cool diagonal design down the Scantron. Then I just daydreamed afterwards. Because it didn’t effect my personal grades and I knew it. I had proven my true intelligence by knowing not to worry about a Communist test that couldn’t hurt my individual grades.

When it came to gym class, I Worked Smart too. Dodge Ball was my favorite. While all the aggressive kids ran out to the front lines when the game began (and got hit right away) and made ballsy moves like attempting to catch the opponent’s ball in mid-air (causing a higher risk of getting out if they missed the catch), I just walked around, looking busy in the back row. Ten minutes into the game, I would actually start playing. And that’s when I got aggressive. I usually at least made it to the Top 5 every time because by that point most of the biggest threats were already out of the game. Tortoise vs. the Hare. Working Smart vs. Working Hard.

When I chose my major in college, I obviously ended up being an English major. (Enter joke here that I earned a “B.S.” in English.) My first couple of years of college I got by with B’s and C’s, because I was forced to take Science and Math classes I would never use.) But I ended up graduating on the Dean’s List. Why? Because my senior year was nothing but “400 level” English classes. Nothing but my specialty. So of course I’m gonna graduate on the Dean’s List my senior year of college when I only do what I’m good at and love.

I knew that unless I wanted to work in a specialized field (like being a lawyer or banker) that my English degree would be general enough and well-rounded enough to help me get a decent job. And my plan worked. In a general sense, what I do for a living is hire clients looking for a job- a sort of staffing agency. I have a quota to meet every month. This has been my job for the last 3 ½ years and for almost every month, I’ve had the highest numbers in my department. In fact, last month I had the highest numbers ever of anyone in the recorded history of our company.

And it’s not because I’m “the best” or “really good at what I do”. It’s because I work smart. I learned the art of personality mirroring: I mimic the pace, accent, and amount of aggressiveness of the person on the other end of the phone. I look for red flags that indicate a client would be a dead end for me and if that’s the case, I get off the phone as soon as possible so I can be available to talk to the clients who are most likely to be a fit. I am painfully truthful about the pro’s and con’s as I talk to clients. And they notice it. That builds trust. It’s a formula I follow. Follow the formula and the equation will work itself out.

I see life in a unique way; there is no gray, only black and white. Either something is, or it isn’t. My subconscious has directed me to Work Smart in all I do. Every day as I drive on I-65 to work, there is a two mile stretch on the interstate that slightly curves to the right. I stay in the “slow lane” going about 67 mph, while all the drivers who want to go fast stay in the “fast lane” travelling at about 80 mph. But since I am in the inner lane, I stay parallel to the “fast” cars for the entire two miles, yet I don’t risk my safety by breaking the speed limit on a curve.

A Smart Worker is to always keep a high-end pay-off project on the backburner; a passionate hobby that one day could make income on the side. For the first 12 years of my life, I wrote and illustrated stories. For the next 13 years of my life, I wrote and performed songs. And since I’ve stopped doing that, I started writing non-fiction.

For me, I can’t escape a lifestyle of Working Smart. Looking back, it’s why I hardly ever dated in high school and college- I Dated Smart. It’s why I’m on the Dave Ramsey plan for finances (every dollar is accounted for in a budget, are credit cards are the devil) – I Spend Money Smart. It’s why I’m so strict on what I will and will not eat- I Eat Smart. It’s a matter of focusing on what is best for future, not the most fun at the present day. But a future that is better planned for, will eventually make a better present time.

I should never be a motivational speaker for school kids on this subject, granted. Just the idea of “working smart, not hard” is offensive or misunderstood by many. Working Smart isn’t superior to Working Hard, but it is my way of life. I know no different. I get bored and uninspired when I Work Hard. It seems to work for a lot of people though.

The truth is, the world is full of people who Work Smart, not hard. These are the Mark Zuckerberg’s (who created facebook at age 21 and now at age 25 is almost a billionaire) of the world.

I choose to Work Smart:

1) Focus on what comes easy and exploit it. And just BS through everything else.
2) Time is more than money- time is life, so spend it wisely on what matters.
3) Less stress equals better quality of life.