How to Win an Argument

Dale Carnegie said that the only way to get the best of an argument was to avoid it. He was a very smart man. I suppose the title of this post is a little misleading because the fact is you really can’t win an argument. 

 

You may be able to use your words to beat someone into submission, you may be able to force someone to comply with your wishes and you may be able to make someone feel stupid and defeated. But you didn’t actually “win” anything. 

 

Arguing with someone to prove your point simply proves you lacked the communication skills to help someone else see things your way…willingly.

 

There will always be disagreements in relationships, whether business or personal, because when more one than one person is involved you’ll at least occasionally have two opinions. Most disagreements are easily resolved. But occasionally relationships can be “fixed” only through serious and conscientious effort to find some kind of agreement.

     

These kinds of discussions are more likely to be successful if conducted in a non-adversarial environment. It’s more productive to think of the disagreements as a difference that can be balanced or accommodated. It should never be seen as a battle you have to win. 

 

A mindset of “must win” does nothing but ensure that someone most likely loses. If you care about the other person even a little then you should realize that when they lose, you lose too. 


Even people with differing viewpoints should be able to find solutions that work for everyone…providing that you truly want to try.

 

Here’s a few ideas for lessening the chance that a disagreement turns argumentative:

       

Listen carefully to what the other person is saying. When I say listen I mean really really listen. If the first word out of your mouth when the other person stops talking is “but” then I just just about guarantee that you were listening to respond instead of listening to understand. If you don’t understand what they said or meant then ask… nicely. “What the hell is that supposed to mean” is an escalation phrase and I’m hoping escalation isn’t your goal.

 

Explain your views clearly, you don’t like guessing what the other person is thinking so don’t make them guess either. Finding common ground isn’t a race so slow down, choose your words carefully, once said they can be forgiven but it’s really really hard for someone to forget them.

 

Stay on topic. Don’t introduce new differences and most certainly don’t try to rehash old ones. When you’re tempted to fight fire with fire it would serve you well to remember that firefighters most often don’t use fire to put out another fire.

 

Cheap shots are just that, cheap. If you value the relationship then perhaps you should not use something cheap when trying to save something valuable from permanent damage.

 

Don’t embarrass yourself by suggesting that the other person is unable to see the big picture or incapable of thinking through the situation. If you think you’re talking to an idiot then perhaps you should just stop talking because the other person may feel the same way and if the discussion gets too far off track it’s possible you could both be right.

 

If your differences just seem impossible to reconcile (I’m nearly certain they are not) consider seeking help from an impartial person. A coach, mentor, valued friend, Pastor or a trusted family member are the most likely possibilities.

 

When a discussion escalates into an argument then everybody loses something. Don’t lose by arguing and never fool yourself into thinking that you’ve won. 


The next time you’re tempted to argue consider giving the other person a piece of your heart instead of a piece of your mind. You will both be better off in the end, that much I can assure you.

Communicate for Success

Words are the basis for all successful communication. There are certainly nonverbal factors that come into play but your choice of words has a huge impact on how your message is heard.

 

How effectively a person communicates is a key determinant in their level of success. 

 

Poor speaking or writing skills can distort your image as a capable, knowledgeable professional. When you hem and haw, trying to find the right word you can give the impression that you lack confidence….or worse.

 

There is a temptation to over compensate by using a 25 cent word when a 5 cent word will do. I could use an obfuscated, byzantine and problematical word here but instead I’ll just say it’s best to use descriptive, simple words in short sentences when communicating. It doesn’t matter if you’re speaking or writing, clear and concise is always better. 

 

If someone needs to look up a word to figure out what you’re saying then you have likely missed the mark. 

 

You’ll seldom impress someone with your communication skills by using big words they don’t understand, you’ll impress them by being understood. 

 

Another killer of successful communication is waffle words. 

 

Certain expressions, phrases and word choices can rob people of their opportunity to communicate effectively. These words and phrases can turn an otherwise crisp, powerful message into soggy ineffective mush.

 

“I guess”, “I hope”, “I think”, “Maybe”, “Sort of”, “Kind of” and “Probably” are just a few examples of commonly heard waffle words. The more they sneak into your presentation or document the weaker your message becomes.

 

Waffle words easily become habit forming. We start using them without thinking of the impact, or lack of impact on the message we’re trying to convey. Instead of saying things out of habit, try to be more aware of what you say and create new, more effective habits when you speak or write.

 

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” 


Make sure your habits are good ones!