How to Win Any Argument

Katie Sweeney

With Thanksgiving coming up, it’s a good time to brush up on your argument skills—especially if you’re seeing distant family members who you might wind up in a heated debate with. “If you’re going to engage, why not win?” writes Bill Murphy for Inc. I couldn’t agree more, so I was curious to learn his tips. You can win any argumentlawyers do it all the timeyou just need to know how to construct and execute your argument successfully. Here’s how it’s done.

  1. Choose your battles. Think about the goal of your argument and ask yourself, Is it really necessary? Is it worth arguing for?
  2. Think of a story. Once you’ve decided the battle is worth fighting, you’ll need a compelling story with a beginning, middle, and end. “Be sure you know how you're going to end your story before you begin it,” warns Murphy.
  3. Know your facts. Everyone present can fact check what you’re saying with a quick smartphone Google search. It’s also a good idea to anticipate facts your opponent may rely on.
  4. Psych out the other side. Prepare documents that will intimidate your opponent and keep them hidden until the opportune moment strikes. Murphy says to  “employ drama and props to make the other side think there's no way he or she can win.”
  5. Frame the debate. Begin your debate with a declarative statement that is the theme of the case. What are you arguing about? Think of a frame ahead of time and use it at the start as this is when you will have everyone’s undying attention.
  6. Employ emotion. Don’t be emotional. Make logical points that showcase your argument with an emotional appeal.
  7. Anticipate the other side’s arguments. “If you anticipate that your argument will be with your 19-year-old sophomore niece who absolutely loves Sen. Bernie Sanders, maybe read a couple of articles written by Sanders supporters before dinner,” recommends Murphy.
  8. Ask yes-or-no questions. Good lawyers never ask a question they don’t know the answer to, but great lawyers guide the witness or opponent toward giving the answers that are necessary to build upon their argument.
  9. Do a little preparation. Preparing your case in advance will make you a better arguer.
  10. Pull your punches and save face. Have a few exit routes ready where you can concede that your opponent has made some interesting points. 

To learn more about this topic, read How to Win Every Argument.

How you recently won an argument? Tell me about it below.

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