Whether you thrive on conflict or avoid it at all costs, it is a big part of life. Arguments can arise over little things, like whose job it is to clean the coffee pot, or over big things, like how to approach a massive project.
No matter the conflict, though, there are some techniques that will help you prevail in almost any argument — be it with friends, co-workers, or family. While it isn't wise to choose to fight every single battle, follow these tactics to give yourself the best chance at winning the ones you do pick.
The minute you lose your temper, you've lost the argument. Letting your emotions run free means that the other person has gotten to you, that they have bugged you beyond your ability to control yourself. Even if you have the best facts and you handle the rest of the argument well, losing it emotionally never changes anyone else's mind.
It's perfectly acceptable to feel passionate about your opinion and even to use passionate language to express yourself. But it will not help you if you cry, yell, scream, curse, or pound on the table to make your points. This makes you seem a little unstable and maybe even unhinged, but does not help anyone accept your point of view.
Take Opposing Theories to Their Logical Conclusion
One of the best ways to win an argument is to take your opponent's theories to their logical conclusion. Often, these conclusions are absurd, and will lead your opponent to rethink his or her point. One study did just this with Israelis on the topic of the conflict with the Palestinians, and found that the tactic made people 30% more likely to reconsider their views.
See Another Perspective
Try to look at the world through your opponent's eyes. This will help you in two ways. First of all, it allows you to demonstrate genuine empathy for this person. When you can understand where he or she is coming from or why they might see things the way they do, you can make statements during the argument that expresses this understanding. This will help the other person to feel more like you are both on the same side.
Understanding your opponent's perspective also allows you to tailor your arguments in ways that will be more likely to influence them. If they hold the position they do because of fear, you can show how your stance could be reassuring. In the end, this will help your points hit home for them.
When someone feels attacked, they move into fight-or-flight mode. This makes them extremely inflexible in their thinking, which means that they will not be able to listen to the points you are making, even if they might normally be interested in hearing them.
Ask Your Opponent How to Implement Their Ideas
It's one thing to ask someone why they believe something. Most people can spit out those answers with ease. But when you ask someone how they would implement their ideas, nearly everyone will soften their views (and some will even rate their understanding of the debate lower).
Implementing ideas is usually harder than simply believing them, and to make an idea work in the real world, you have to have a deep understanding of the issue as a whole and how people tend to act around it. So ask people "how" questions, and you may find that they back off of some staunchly held points, which gives you a chance to make your arguments and show how you would implement your own ideas.
Argue With Facts and Science
People trust scientists. Appeal to them, and your opponents will be more likely to listen to you and adopt whatever it is you're asking of them.
If you have something to say and you have good reasons for believing it, there's no reason not to arm yourself with the best argumentative tactics before you head into a debate.