How to Argue Effectively

I was raised in a home where “discussions” were considered a sport. Think: “what do you call banana pudding made without bananas?” and “does a week start on Sunday or Monday? (…What constitutes this week? Next week?! Don’t get me started.) This carried over into my marriage where I forever have browser tabs open settling disputes like “Times Square not a square?” and “antelope carnivore??”. In today’s combative, sensitive world, how do you artfully toe the line between workplace exploration and obnoxious ex-neighbor on Facebook?

If I’m being totally honest, my first instinct when approaching a post about disagreement was to just pout, storm away and stop this post before it even started because I DON’T CARE ANYWAY. However, in my long history of remaining friends with those who drive me crazy, here are a few things that have worked for me:

  1. Ask questions and try to understand: It’s always interesting to me to understand WHY the other person thinks the way they do. It’s hard to word this without sounding cheeky (and why do you think that?) but you can ask questions that will help you get informed, follow their train of thought and tie in your points later on.

  2. Be informed: The most frustrating thing for me in political discussions with my husband is when I enter territory where I feel uninformed. That immediately makes me feel defensive and want to hurl a “YOU’RE JUST WRONG AND DUMB” bomb or cry in an upscale Mexican restaurant over gun control. If you decide to pursue a dispute, make sure you are prepared with facts that support your side or address points the other person might bring up. The difference in how you feel after an argument is largely based on the degree of educated, unemotional and factual statements.

  3. Know the right time: With most of my friends and family, I have an arsenal of hot button items that I know can tip us into argument-ville. I am aware of which topics will NEVER be resolved, and which are open to mutual discussion.  I also know when I last ate, when Mercury is in Retrograde, when we have been on an 11 hour road trip together, and when we are low on sleep and high on hormones. If you truly want to argue with growth and understanding in mind, pick a time when everyone is sane, full and well rested. If you do not care about that, pick a time when everyone is on the edge and hangry and PMSing and watch the fur fly in circles forever.

  4. #RightReasons: Begin by understanding that there is a 99.8% chance you will never change that person’s mind. Go in hoping to learn, educate, or kill time until you find that mythical Sonic off some exit in Georgia. Look for the strength in your opposing views, especially if they have to do with the future of your relationship or your family. Will your differing political views forever ruin your unborn child? Only if you’re a jerk about it. Instead of letting it keep you up at night re-reading your horoscope compatibility, take comfort instead that you will have an educated, well-rounded offspring who can make their own decisions.

  5. DO NOT GLOAT: Last but definitely not least, if someone ever does come around to your point of view, welcome them with open arms. The fastest way to make someone bitter for life is to remind them of that time they were wrong, or congratulate them on their arrival to righteousness FINALLY ONLY AFTER I BULLIED YOU FOR 8 YEARS. Do not forward them chain letters about how they will die if they do not see the merit in your book club book pick. Avoid dropping off VHS tapes of Dateline where people’s kids ate too much red meat. Just trust that you provided enough good information for them to realize how right you are. They’ll get there.

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