7 Ways To Lose An Argument Before It’s Started

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So many people spend so much time trying to “win” conversations…

And, in certain scenarios, most often at work, winning points in a debate or meeting, landing concessions in a collective bargaining agreement, winning deal points or beating someone up verbally until they give-in to avoid further abuse may lead to a certain amount of professional advancement (not a fan of the last tactic).

But, that’s not what I’m talking about here…

What I AM talking about is persuading someone to genuinely agree with your point of view or idea. Sitting face-to-face with one person, engaging them in respectful conversation and leaving the table having convinced that person to see the world differently or change the way they view a particular situation.

There are so many strategies and tactics that can make this go easier but critical to your success is your ability to minimize what you do wrong and sidestep conversational landmines in order to maximize the effect of what you do right. So, here are…

7 critical mistakes to avoid when trying to persuade someone to your point of view:

  1. Don’t Attack – When you verbally attack either a person or their point of view, you immediately raise their defensive shields. This makes not only more likely to become combative out of a sense of pride and consistency (more on this), it also makes them less susceptible to persuasion. It may work as part of a deliberate negotiation strategy when trying to score points at a deal table, but when you’re face to face with someone you want to actually buy into your point of view, it’s a persuasion-killer.
  2. Don’t fail to acknowledge and validate another person’s right to believe what they believe – You may want them to emerge from the conversation with a different opinion, but their experience in life has led them to the point of view they hold today. If you summarily dismiss their point of view and their right to hold onto it out of the gate, you effectively dismiss the experiences, thought processes and work that have led them to feel the way they feel. People will almost always read that as a personal attack and, just like above, raise their shields and shut down their ears.
  3. Don’t fail to anticipate and address objections – People feel a strong need to act and speak in a way that is consistent with their prior actions and statements. So, the moment you try to persuade them away from a position they’ve already done something about or said something about, they’ll very likely offer up objections, in part, as a way to avoid having to do or say something that’s inconsistent with past actions and statements. Brainstorm all potential objections and be ready to respond to them in logical, non-emotional, factual way that is (a) not a personal attack and, (b) based largely on evidence that’s irreffutable by either of you.
  4. Don’t skip building rapport, trust, credibility – Often, especially when people have strongly held convictions, they’ll launch into an argument in support of those convictions, before allowing the person on the other side of the conversation to (a) get comfortable with who they are, (b) build rapport and likeability, which is a tremendous aid in the effort to persuade, and (c) establish enough credibility in an area to allow the other person to feel comfortable deferring to your knowledge base. Take the time to establish these elements in the conversation BEFORE launching into your campaign to persuade and you’ll find others far more receptive to your point of view.
  5. Don’t forget to to adequate research – Be informed and prepared with the latest, most relevant information. The more you can argue facts, the less you have to rely on theories and emotions and the more you can give the other person valid justifications for arriving at your point of view.
  6. Don’t shut yourself down to being persuaded yourself – This may surprise you, we’re not always right. Be open to the notion that in your attempt to persuade someone to your point of view, they may have information or arguments that are new to you and may, in fact, end up winning you over. In the end, it’s not so much about winning as it is about arriving at the most informed and intelligent conclusion together.
  7. Don’t say don’t – By now, you may have realized that by simply removing the word “don’t” from each of these points, you’d end up with seven things to “do,” rather than 7 mistakes to avoid. And, by the time you got to this point, you may have been feeling a bit edgy or less receptive after being told “don’t” do this or that six times already. I used the word “don’t” to make a point. Because using the word changes the energy of a conversation from positive and expansive to negative and restrictive. It can have the effect of turning a conversation into an unintended scolding. So, to the extent you can phrase your statements and questions using positive, rather than negative or restrictive language, “do” it!

In general, a great approach is to enter into the conversation armed and ready to persuade, but open to the opportunity to learn, grow and connect. Make it more about the quest for the best knowledge than the desire to win.

So, what about you?

What do YOU think about these tips?

What other advice, strategies or tactics have helped you win hearts and minds?

Let’s discuss…

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10 responses

10 responses to “7 Ways To Lose An Argument Before It’s Started”

  1. […] Original post by Jonathan Fields […]

  2. […] 7 Ways To Lose An Argument Before It’s Startedjonathanfields.com/blog/7-ways-to-lose-an-argument-before-it… by todoinbox : a few seconds ago […]

  3. Khalid Saleh says:

    Nice list Jonathan. It might explain why I always lose arguments with my wife 😉

    I think trying to understand the perspective of the other person and where they are coming from will definitely either help you win an argument or find a mistake in your own thinking.

  4. Guy Harris says:

    Great list. Great post.

    I saw this post referenced by Victoria Pynchon at Settle It Now. Then I sent a tweet with a link to her post. I liked the content so much I went back for a second look and realized that you were the original source. Don’t know how I missed it, but I did.

    Thanks for this perspective. I really like what I’ve been able to read in your blog so far. Fantastic content.

  5. Maya says:

    All useful tactics that you have suggested Johnathan, but these are mine:

    – Use some emotional intelligence: Establish that it is okay to disagree. (Starting with this always leads to the best result – not always the intended result, mind you :)) And Listen, really listen. Try to come up with the best solution and if I have the better idea then the best solution should mean my idea wins 🙂

    -Tell my story: This is a winner. If I tell my story, I get the person’s attention. A strong compelling story if better than the best facts or comparisons 🙂

  6. Really like your point #4. I think above all else, people are more likely to listen and be receptive to your point of view if you first establish your credibility and likeability.

  7. Fantastic List.

    I really enjoyed reading your post. Things are more often easier written than done in real life, that’s maybe a fact. But with your great list arguments could be easier done, and I think it’s a really good help.

    Thanks for your perspective how to act in an argument.

  8. Sophmom says:

    All very sage advice. I would add that it’s important to know the difference between winning and getting what you want. I think it’s important to focus on achieving a specific goal and that, generally speaking, in human interaction, when one person wins, both people lose. It’s certainly true in close, personal interaction.

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  10. Allan says:

    I sometimes lack the discipline for this, but I usually don’t try to win arguments. I usually just try to illustrate our differences and make them clear. Distinction is more important than agreement.