How to Win Every Argument
Think of the last time you had an argument. Did you win? What does it even mean to win an argument?
It could simply be that the other person simply gave up arguing their side. But to really "win" an argument, you need to convince the other person to willingly adopt your point of view. Not surprisingly, argumentativeness is not the straightest path to this objective.
In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie says the only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it. He gives the example of a truck salesman who, if a customer mentioned his competitor, would launch into a diatribe against it. He eventually realized that doing so would cause the customer to explain why he liked the competing truck, and by listing the advantages would further talk himself into buying it. When the salesman learned to say, "I don't blame you, that is a good truck," he could short-circuit that process and leave open the potential for persuading the customer of the merits of his own product.
This is a form of pacing and leading. By agreeing with the customer, and even enthusiastically lauding the competing product, the salesman was able to pace the customers emotions and create a sense of being on the same team rather than being antagonistic.
Dr. Robert Cialdini provides a similar example in Pre-suasion. His advice for job applicants: begin the interview by asking the employer why they thought it worthwhile to interview you. By listing your positive traits, the interviewer becomes predisposed to think more highly of you.
By avoiding arguments, there is no way for you to lose them. Meanwhile, by creating agreement you can generate liking on the part of your opponent, and liking is one of the key weapons of influence. Used wisely, in the best of circumstances it will increase your ability to persuade. And in the worst case it simply results in a more pleasant conversation.
If you enjoyed this post, you might like the others in my Dale Carnegie series.