We all want to be triumphant in everything. That is the nature of the human spirit. We scale peaks, invent new technologies and persevere against all odds in our quest to win against war, disease or natural calamities. This same fervor to be victorious also holds true in the realm of debate and argumentation. We don’t want to lose in a verbal tussle with friends or classmates nor do we want to be proclaimed the vanquished in debates at work, in the courtroom or with those held with other members of society on social, political and economic issues.
However, we all know that winning an argument every time is not the norm. The saying, “You win some, you lose some” clearly sums up how it is possible to win in some debates and lose in others. Yet, you must never believe that it’s all right to lose especially when it is possible to win arguments every time you engage in them. Yes, you read that right. You can win all your arguments if you take these ten elements to heart.
1. Everything starts with preparation.
Argumentation can take many forms. Making a presentation for a client can be considered a form of argumentation because you are there to convince him to agree with you. Crafting a dissertation and presenting in front of a panel of learned professors is also another form since you are essentially asking them to believe you enough to grant you the doctoral degree you have been aspiring for. The most common form of argumentation is seen in what lawyers do in court when defending a client and persuading the judge or the jury to side with them.
All the situations above require a lot of preparation. If you are really serious about convincing people to sympathize with your side, you need to prepare for the big day weeks, months or even years before. This entails doing a lot of research on the issue at hand. This also means practicing your speech in front of the mirror and internalizing your message in such a manner that you become one with the message. If you are working on this as a group, preparation can also mean assigning tasks to all members so that they know what they should focus on and then meeting to exchange ideas. The element of preparation is crucial to winning any argument. Without it, no amount of rhetoric can make you win.
2. Make your audience listen to you.
You cannot start delivering your argument until and unless your audience is receptive to you. Remember, you want them to listen to what you have to say so until and unless your audience is prepared, you shouldn’t begin your discourse. The question is: How do you make them listen to what you have to say? Commanding their attention is never easy but if you are about to deliver your piece in a roomful of people, one strategy is to not open your mouth until after everyone has seen that you are already standing there and waiting for them to quiet down and put their full attention on you. This can be achieved by simply standing and looking at each of them calmly. When you feel that they are ready to receive your message that’s the time to start.
3. Encapsulate your argument in a story.
We all love to listen to stories. They are interesting for people of all ages. You can use an actual story that is parallel to the argument you wish to make or you can use the events of the situation you are presenting to introduce your case. By using the element of suspense and excitement in your narration, you capture the imagination of your audience put them at the edge of their seats until you have finally shared the ending. You can also use a story to give a moral lesson or ask them an open-ended question which will serve as the opening argument for your case.
4. Be credible.
If you are delivering an argument, you have become an essential part of it. Thus, your background, your personality and your credentials are going to matter a lot. If you are not credible as a speaker, it is going to be difficult to convince your audience to side with you. Thus, you need to be honest in all your dealings with people. If you have skeletons in your closet that you feel could potentially destroy your argument, it’s better to own it up yourself rather than have your enemies discover it and use it against you. People tend to be more forgiving to those who acknowledge their mistakes and pledge not to do the same thing again. Credibility also means telling the truth about your side of the issue. It does not mean inventing lies just to sound credible. It means honesty in all aspects of your argument.
5. Be clear about your intentions.
One of the most important things that you should never forget when it comes to winning an argument is the element of honestly baring your intentions. What is it that you want to get from the debate? In the court of law, for example, a victim of rape will tell the judge that she wants to have her aggressor punished, that she wants him to languish in prison because that is the justice she is seeking for. In any argument you find yourself in, don’t play coy and leave the other party guessing about what you want. Make sure that you tell them outright about your intentions and expect them to say the same to you. From there, you are able to understand what the other party wants and perhaps even come up with a compromise agreement to solve the problem, thereby creating a win-win situation for both sides.
6. Never ridicule or insult an opponent.
One of the most serious offenses that you can commit when in the middle of an argument is to insult and belittle an opponent. When you do that, you immediately lose the sympathy of the audience and even become the villain in their eyes. Once this happens, it becomes next to impossible to win an argument. Thus, you should stick to the facts at hand and avoid attacking personalities. If you must tell a joke, be sure not to do it at the expense of your opponent. Also, you have to be certain that your joke is going to be well-received (read: it has to be funny) or else you are going to suffer the consequences.
7. Use logic to your advantage.
Employ logic when it works to your advantage. However, when it only makes you lose the argument, leave it at bay and rely on your creativity and strong spirit instead.
8. Be on the offensive.
While defending something is always considered good, this is not always the case when it comes to argumentation. It is better to be on the attack because it puts your enemy on the defensive and when that happens, he uses his arsenal to keep his fort protected. While he is busy safeguarding his fort, he cannot think of a way to conduct an attack. You don’t want to be in this position either. Thus, if there is a way for you to attack then by all means, do so.
9. State your weaknesses outright.
If you know that there are weaknesses in your argument, don’t be afraid to admit them outright. As mentioned in number 4 above, doing so will enhance your credibility. Don’t let your opponents discover these and use it against you. If you state your limitations right from the start, you put yourself in a better position overall.
10. Claim your power to win an argument.
No, claiming victory isn’t arrogance or pride. However, you could mistake it as such so be careful. If you claim your power to win an argument, you are empowering yourself to speak the truth—your truth—and become victorious against your opponent. When you claim that you have won, you are essentially empowering yourself to speak convincingly and persuade your audience that yours is the side they should take.
These ten elements of winning are no doubt difficult to put into practice. It takes a change in mindset to employ them, considering that we are all so used to the belief that we can’t win arguments all the time. Once you have started to use them more often, however, you will realize that it is possible to make winning arguments become a part of your life. So don’t be afraid to claim victory. Believe that you will win and this mindset will carry you through in every battle you face each day in your life.
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