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:

Psychologically Analyzing the Token “Feet at the Beach” Selfie on Social Media

It’s a cliche by now:

Psychologically Analyzing the Token “Feet at the Beach” Selfie on Social Media

We go to the beach and then we Instagram a picture of our feet, with the ocean waves in the background.

The token “Feet at the Beach” picture is actually a selfie, though we don’t necessarily immediately think of it that way. The camera is pointed at the feet instead of the face, but ultimately it serves the same purpose.

An efficient selfie of any form communicates the message, “Look at me right now and please positively validate my existence.”

And people do. A few dozen “likes” easily follow.

People enjoy helping each other celebrate life. People like to see their friends and family being happy.

But specifically, the token “feet at the beach” selfie communicates a certain message to its audience.

Here is how I translate the implied message behind it, from a psychological and analytical perspective:

“I am wishing to share with you that I currently am relaxing in a surreal state of mind. As you can see from my physical point of view, I am literally looking at the edge of the world, into the seemingly endless ocean; which serves as a metaphor for my life. The future is still unwritten; my life is still ahead of me. In this moment, I am able to escape from real life and share my perspective with you. (Now, please click “like” to show that you are celebrating this escape from reality with me; in hopes that you too will soon be able to enjoy such a view.)”

The next time you see a “feet at the beach” selfie, consider the paragraph above. Test my theory.

But I believe the reason it collectively resonates with so many people is that there is some familiar and universal psychology behind it.

And I believe I have officially put those abstract thoughts into black-and-white words today.

What Percentage of Your Day is Spent on Entertainment?

It’s not as simple as logging your TV and movie time: Entertainment is much more complicated, subtle, and encompassing than that.

When my sister was born in January of 1984 (I was about 2 ½) she gave me a Garfield stuffed animal as present.  I realize that the idea of a newborn baby giving her older brother a gift the day she is born may seem illogical, but my parents’ idea to keep me feeling special that day worked.  Because I didn’t question the rationale of my sister’s gift until high school.  That Garfield doll ended up being one of my favorite childhood toys.  I dressed him up in my dad’s whitey-tighties; they were Garfield’s diaper.

A major part of being a kid is being strung along by your parents.  It’s a constant, endless series of countless waiting rooms, strange places, and unfamiliar people.  But all I could really think of was eating, drinking, and peeing.  And when I checked all those activities off the list, that meant I must be bored.

So I needed something to entertain myself.  During the younger years, Garfield in my dad’s underwear did the trick.  I eventually graduated from the stuffed animal circuit to video games and action figures.  Then to playing guitar by the time I started junior high.  Evidently the worst thing in the world was to be bored.  So I always had someway to entertain myself.

*This explains the psychology behind Swiss Army SUV (Nick Shell’s Turtle Shell). Click that title to read more about it.

But I have to imagine that most people, like me, carry this idea of constantly entertaining themselves into adulthood, for the rest of their lives.  And as Ive learned by now, a tangible object isn’t necessary for entertainment- though something as subtle as checking for new text messages 33 times a day is a popular form of fighting subconscious boredom.

I learned as a child to use my imagination to daydream; while I still do that on an hourly basis, I’ve also made a habit of planning my future and coming up with ideas for my life.  And I figure I’m not the only one.  I figure that most people find some way to entertain themselves throughout the day, despite the busyness of life.  In between the busyness of life.  And during the busyness of life.  Even if it’s just while waiting in line, sitting at a red light, or zoning out at work (and often even not realizing we’re doing it).

Heckler-reader yells out: “Bahahaha…You just wait ‘til you have a baby, that’ll all change!”

Yes, life will change and my time will be spent in different ways and I will be functioning on less sleep.  But no matter how preoccupied I am with life and all its responsibilities and distractions, there are still moments throughout any day, even if it’s while I’m falling asleep, that I fill in those moments of fading consciousness with random thoughts like, “What was Grimace supposed to be, anyway?”

So how what percentage of my day is spent on entertainment?  It’s pretty much a trick question.  Because at least for me, my mind is constantly in entertainment mode.  Even when I’m asleep, dreaming.

To Catch an Audience/The Center of Attention

It’s fun to pretend we’re psychologists. To think we’ve got someone figured out based on their OCD or their “middle child syndrome” or their relationship with their father. We can look at personality traits and family history as clues as to why a person thinks they way they do. And often when we do this, we can correctly analyze them. Without a psychology degree.

I am one of those people who likes to study personalities as hobby. Currently I am on my 2nd book written by Dr. Kevin Leman, who specializes in birth order and how it determines a person’s personality. While it is fascinating to learn about everyone else in this world, it’s also interesting to learn about myself. I want to know why I think and behave the way I do. What sets me apart from others in my unique perspectives?

Here is what I recently learned from Dr. Kevin Leman:

Some people need an audience.

That is me.

But here’s what sets me apart from the obnoxious “attention hogs” I’ve met throughout my life. Because of my drive to constantly accomplish something admirable through hard work to gain the approval of adults (a first-born burden), I only want to be the center of attention if I’ve earned it.

I know when to be quiet. I can easily go long periods of time without speaking. I do not speak in a group setting unless I have something relevant and worthy of saying. I, unlike many centers of attention, do not like the sound of my own voice. I am “a” center of attention, not “the” center of attention.

Looking back on my life, here are some of the things I’ve done to make sure I had an audience: In Elementary School, I created my own cartoon characters and stories as a kid (eventually getting published in the school newspaper in 4th grade), as well as headed up the Nickbob Ability Test (click here to find out what it is http://wp.me/pxqBU-r9). In high school I fronted an alternative rock band (and for what it’s worth we played out of state a few times). During college I taught elementary school and Junior High Sunday School, while recording three CD’s of music I wrote, playing small shows in the coffee shop circuit. And for the past 4 ½ years, I’ve been writing my “commentary on life” web posts. And of course, as mentioned in Stage Presence (http://wp.me/pxqBU-2m), I grew up being in plays and musicals.

There has always been an audience. My subconscious had made sure of this.

This past weekend as my wife and I were reminiscing how it was three years ago this month that I asked her on our first unofficial date, she said it was the fact that I always had something interesting to talk about that made her feel so comfortable with me. A lifetime in training of capturing an audience ultimately led to me meeting and marrying a girl I have always felt was out of my league. It paid off.

It’s always been hard for me to understand America’s fascination with sports and particularly a man’s ability to keep up with all that trivia about which teams played each other when and the scores and the names of the players. Another Jewish trait I have is that I’m not good at sports (and never cared about them). So I’ve channeled that energy into entertainment.

I have made myself an expert on 1983, the heights and ethnic background of celebrities, the meaning behind all lyrics of the Beatles, holistic and clean living, Intelligent Design, and Jews in American entertainment, just to name a few of my specialties. I always have “random conversation material” in the archives and in the works.

I was quite hesitant when I first tried to process that idea I have to be the center of attention. Because it makes me think of conversation hijackers, drama queens (and kings), and any person I’ve ever met whose whole demeanor screamed, “Look at me! Look at me!” People who appear needy.

I have to be found. That’s how I operate differently. People have to find me. They have to come to me. Because typically those are the exact people I want to entertain. Takes one to know one.

In a party, I’m never the real center of attention. I wander to the back corner of the room, next to the food, and recruit party guests for random conversation. I have this desire to be the alternative choice in entertainment.

In fact, there have been times where people have tried to elevate me to the center of attention position, and I have escaped it. I have to be able to think in my mind that I earn when I get. For example, in high school, one of my good friends Allison Hardin was planning a surprise birthday party and I found out about it. I found a way to keep it from ever happening. Because I strongly resist the idea of being the center of attention when it’s obvious that I am.

I don’t want to be the official man of the hour. It’s too much pressure. I function best in my ad-lib form. Recruit, entice, inform, motivate, entertain, and provoke thoughts in others. On my own terms. That is my niche.