How to Win Your Next Argument

A healthier approach to a frequent cause of stress

Lesley Alderman, LCSW
Forge
Published in
5 min readOct 4, 2018

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Credit: bobmadbob/iStock/Getty Images Plus

First, let’s define what it means to win. It is a natural inclination to enter an argument with the sole purpose of proving ourselves right or getting our way. But here’s the problem: Doing so is setting yourself up for a battle, and when locked into a power struggle with someone, we turn each other into an adversary. Adversaries don’t like to capitulate.

Instead of angling for victory through a winner/loser framework, think about your next argument as an opportunity to work toward resolution. One of the definitions of winning is, in fact, “to succeed in arriving at a place or state.” That’s what your goal should be.

The key is to reach a resolution that meets your needs. How to do it? First, change your point of view from I to us. Then, listen carefully. That’s the short version. Here’s the longer one.

Pre-suade

When possible, plan ahead. Say you and your boss have opposing views on an issue and you know a showdown is imminent, or you’re trying to convince your partner to kick a habit like smoking, take time to craft your appeal. Before you make your pitch, you want your partner to be sympathetic to your point of view, explains Robert Cialdini, author of the book Pre-Suasion. Cialdini spent three years observing businesspeople who excelled in the art of persuasion. He found that the best persuaders “didn’t rely on the legitimate merits of an offer to get it accepted; [instead] they recognized that the psychological frame in which an appeal is first placed can carry equal or greater weight.” Your ideas and fine logic are not enough. You need to create a climate in which the other feels inclined to hear you out. Look for times that are ideal for discussion — like when your boss or partner is relaxed and able to fully focus on the conversation. Build an alliance and follow the guidelines below.

If you find yourself in a spontaneous disagreement, take a deep breath and enter into the ring with a spirit of cooperation. Let the person vent. Anger that’s not stoked with rebuttals subsides over time. And then try saying something along the lines of, “Hey, I hear that you’re upset, but I think we can solve this together.”

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