If you want to outsmart someone in an argument, you'll want to avoid these 5 common mistakes. It's important to be able to argue and debate properly: it's not just about what to say to win an argument, but also knowing what not to say!
Bad argument techniques will not convince anyone of your point of view, so if you want to win an argument you'll need to pay attention to the points below.
Mistake 1: Giving personal insults to those with opposing viewpoints
This mistake is often seen in both online and in real life arguments, and it's definitely a problem. This is because telling people who disagree with you that they are idiots will not convince them of your side of the argument.
Calling someone names suggests that you've run out of proper reasons for your point of view, and this weakens your side of the story. People will assume that if someone resorts to insults that they don't have any real reasons for their argument (even if they do or even if the reasons were given just before).
You can still argue passionately for the specific reasons for your viewpoint - but keep your passion to the reasons and not to giving insults.
Avoid name calling and you'll command people's respect.
Mistake 2: Informing someone with an opposing viewpoint that he or she is blindly following what someone else has told them
If you want the person to change his or her mind to your point of view, you would be hypocritical to expect them to do so after you critique them for blindly following someone else. You’re implying that he or she should instead be blindly following what you are telling them!
Therefore, instead of criticizing someone for blindly following what someone else has told them without really thinking, stick to the facts when you're looking to win an argument. Give specific reasons why they should change their mind - don't tell them they're brainwashed. This will backfire because they might think you are brainwashed for having the opposing point of view (even if they don't tell you that)!
Even if the person has truly been led astray by following what someone else has said, don't state it like that - it'll just make them dig in their heels even more. If you're worried that your friend or relative has fallen prey to a conspiracy theory, ask questions - don't simply tell them they're wrong and you're right. For example, ask something like "Do you think it's possible that... [this conspiracy theory might have a few problems?]"
Mistake 3: Displaying behavior which is in opposition to your stance
In other words, practice what you preach if you want to win an argument. For example, if you are pro-democracy, please don’t tell someone that he or she is "voting wrong" and "you don’t know what is best for you". These sentiments are hallmarks of other regimes but not of democracy. Instead you should give concrete reasons why you believe your candidate is a much better choice.
There are plenty of other examples in different areas of life too, but it boils down to this: your behavior and your argument should be in line with one another. Otherwise you will appear hypocritical, which will certainly weaken your side of the argument.
Mistake 4: Not asking for or listening to reasons why someone may have an opposing viewpoint
It’s a debate or a discussion, not a monologue. How can you explain why your point of view is better if you don’t know the other person’s argument? And here we are referring to the particular person you are arguing with at the time, not just "people with that viewpoint" in general; everyone has different reasons behind their stance.
Even if you have all of the correct reasons and facts behind you, if you don't listen to the other person you may win the argument but lose the person. But by listening to their viewpoint, you can win the argument and keep your relationship intact - a win-win.
As an added bonus, you'll improve your side of the argument when you know some of the reasons for the other side's stance. So in addition to keeping a positive relationship, it also helps you to win debates when you listen to the other side's points. This is because you're now counter those with reasons why your viewpoint is better or why their points are not good.
Mistake 5: Expecting to win a philosophical argument in one discussion
Deep philosophical questions are not things about which people are likely to change their mind in one discussion. In fact, it’s possible the other person may never change his or her mind. Debate and healthy argument are good things. But don’t expect to win a religious, political or philosophical argument quickly, if at all. Failure to win such an argument in one session frequently leads an incompetent debater back to mistake 1 – calling the other person names, and that won't help your side of the debate at all.
Instead, use these techniques for how to agree to disagree while keeping the other person's respect. You may win this argument in the long term, even though it's one that no-one can win in the short term.
When you avoid the bad argument techniques described above, you'll come across as calm, strong, and someone to be respected.
Present your side of the argument with logic and respect, and you’ll be certain to be awarded respect in return. A listener is more likely to support your side of the argument when you behave calmly and with integrity, and when you show you are willing to listen to the other person's point of view. Healthy arguing techniques will convince the other person of your viewpoint far more than name calling or other unprofessional behavior.
After all, if you were the one listening, which would appeal to you more: being berated, or a respectful discussion?