Everyone has an opinion these days, and they feel as though they must win their side of the argument.
But with everyone set on being the one to win their argument, arguments never seem to get anywhere. People seem set in their ways and refuse to listen to your logic and reasoning. Ironically, they then accuse you of not listening to their logic and reasoning!
Then it gets worse when emotional frustration sets in. In the worse case scenarios, the desire to win an argument can turn into a violent episode. It can even lead to wars.
Why don’t cold hard facts change someone’s mind in an argument?
People are social creatures. Most derive their identity from the group they belong within. This group provides them with safety and validation. When you rock the boat of their social identity, they will fear you are trying to threaten their security. The sense you are trying to invalidate them.
Cognitive dissonance occurs when new information threatens a person’s identity within their group. Studies done with MRI machines to show cognitive dissonance in action. If a person’s ideas become threatened a person’s strong emotions show up in the scan. This neurological response leads to emotional reasoning.
Therefore, to win an argument you must avoid triggering someone’s emotional reasoning. They need to feel secure and validated when receiving potentially threatening information.
How to Win Arguments
1. Make Sure You Are Not Emotional
The brain works on three basic levels. There is the rational brain, the emotional brain, and the primitive brain.
The emotional brain receives sensations. If the emotional brain senses a threat, it will default to the primitive brain to survive. The primitive brain controls the fight/flight response, as well hunger and lust etc.
If the emotional brain senses no threat, the rational brain can analyze the stimuli. It can process the information it receives.
So ask yourself if you are arguing for the sake of emotion or defense. If you are, then who you are arguing with will immediately become emotional and defensive.
Before arguing, calm yourself. Access your rational brain by making a physical list of your points. Find sources and studies to back your claim. If you present an argument with no facts or sources to back it up, you will lose.
2. Think About Who You Are Arguing With
Research the moral standing of the person you are arguing with. Consider how much of their moral standing may come from the security it gives them in their social group.
Appeal to their need for security. In the course of one argument, you will not be able to make them defect from their group to yours. You must show them how your argument applies equally to their group.
Some groups value patriotism and traditionalism. Other groups value fairness and equality. There are groups that value authoritarian rule. And yet others that value freedom at all cost.
Researchers Robb Willer and Matthew Feinberg released research about this in 2015 in Sage Journals. The Stanford University sociologists showed how an argument can persuade different groups. By appealing to the morals of a group when presenting an argument, the arguer becomes persuasive.
For example, to argue that a country should accept more refugees, one needs to make the appropriate moral connections. Some need to hear that refugees represent everything their patriotism represents. Others need to hear that it would mean more contribution to the economy.
Another example would be arguing for greater military spending. To someone who values freedom at all costs, military spending could potentially protect that freedom. To another, one could argue that it will protect those who strive for fairness, from those who don’t.
3. Make Them Feel Validated
If you make an argument in order to feel superior to another person, you are using emotional reasoning. It doesn’t matter if you have facts and figures. The person’s emotional brain will sense that you are threatening them. Their emotional response will be an equal response to your argument.
There are many ways to look at the world. When you are arguing with someone, it pays to remember the story of the blind men and the elephant.
“Once, 3 blind men from different lands were lead into an enclosure. They were then told that they would be meeting an elephant. They each approached the giant creature and placed their hand upon it.
Each felt reassured that they understood what an elephant was, and left the enclosure. Subsequently, they returned back to the nations from which they came.
The first blind man told his nation that an elephant was long and snake-like.
“An elephant is like the stump of a tree,” the second blind man told his nation.
“I felt the elephant was wide and pendulous,” said the third blind man to his nation.”
Therefore, it pays to remember that you, and the person you are arguing with, are experts on only one particular aspect of a bigger picture.
- To make the other person feel validated, treat them as an authority on their perspective. Give them affirmation that they are your equal.
- Find common ground between you both. Have you both experienced the same situation but dealt with it differently?
- Really listen to their perspective. Let them know you have heard them.
- Never get personal. Name calling and accusing them of being bad people will immediately terminate rationality.
- Ask them questions, rather than respond coldly with your facts. Questions can steer a person to believe they agree with your argument of their own accord.
- Leave them to make up their own mind about what you have to say. Give them no pressure to change. Make them feel like they have permission to stay as who they are, safe in their social group.