How to Win Arguments

By Tia Stratton (not Tim)

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February 11, 2019

Stop! Don’t do it!!!

Do not engage in an argument with a trained arguer — at least not until you read this:

Have you ever had an argument with a trained arguer — a lawyer, politician, apologist, someone on the debate team — and thought, “I wish I could win an argument sometimes?” I’ve been there and I too was tired of being on the losing side of arguments. Because of occasionally finding myself on the “wrong side of logic,” I have been secretly working to gain the upper hand by increasing my arguing abilities.

The purpose of this article, however, is to share what this “average arguer” has learned with others like me so that us “average arguers” can — and will — start winning arguments to change the world for the better!

What exactly is an average arguer, you ask? Consider what I mean by an “average arguer?”

Average arguer:

Noun

Not your full time job. Maybe does it as a hobby on weekends.

Not professionally trained. Usually only argues when absolutely necessary and does not engage in an argument for the sheer fun of it.

Now that my audience has been pinpointed, consider five tips to get the “average arguer” through an argument — and perhaps even win it!

Tip #1: Do Your Homework 

If you think you might be involved in a certain argument in the near future, be sure to make time to prepare for it by doing research on the topic. You may think to yourself, “this trained arguer doesn’t even know about this topic! I’ve got this won before it’s even started.”

No! Learn from my mistakes. That’s the #1 way to lose!

Always assume the trained arguer knows a way to get around his lack of familiarity with a certain topic. They will sense your weakness on the subject if you have not done your homework and will pick apart your words. Not even the subject. Your words! You have to be on your game, people!

Make sure that you know at least two random facts about the subject that you can use in a come-from-behind win. You never know when you will need an ace in your back pocket.

And whatever you do, don’t just Google the subject and think the first article that pops up is reliable. Often times the first two or three pages that come up after a Google search seem to be the most biased and do not consider all relevant data. Make sure to click on the following pages of links just to make sure you are not missing any gems. On top of that, make sure you find reputable sources. I have been burned. Don’t appeal to the authority of bad sources. Thanks, Google!

Tip #2: Choose Your Words Carefully 

Never, I repeat NEVER, say the words “never” or “always!”

See what I did there? That was a test.

Let me rephrase: be careful about using the words “never” and “always.” For example:

“You always do such and such…”

“This is always what happens when…”

“You never do such and such!”

A trained arguer will jump all over statements like these and you will have instantly lost. To the average arguer the word “always” typically means “most of the time.” To the trained arguer, however, “always” means always and “never” means never. No exceptions.

“Always” is a hasty generalization if in fact said action does not ALWAYS happen. Trained arguers tend to be quite literal.

For instance, not that I know from experience or anything, but if you were to say to the trained arguer, “You always work on Saturdays.” This will get you nowhere. You will then have a ten minute conversation on what the word “always” always means.

The trained arguer will say something like: “Always? Do I work every single Saturday? Did I work three Saturdays ago?” To which you will have to reply “no.”

Ugh! Just like that, the trained arguer gets the dub!

This above example goes back to Tip #1. The trained arguer needs facts (have homework in hand). Have dates and times readily available (in your back pocket) to prove your point about the majority of Saturdays that have been worked. If you start to stumble and accidentally say a Saturday that the trained arguer did, in fact, not work — you have lost yet again.

There is no recuperating from that type of mistake. Always Be prepared.

Tip #3: Use Their Words Against Them

Consider this as “side homework” from the fact finding homework in Tip #1. You have to know the words and terms they use if you ever want to come out on top in an argument with a professional. Take this argument (that may or may not have actually happened) for example:

Trained arguer: “That was a really mean look you gave me.”

Average arguer: “No, I didn’t look at you mean.”

Trained arguer: “Well, I saw it with my own eyes, and yes, you did give me a mean look.”

Average arguer: “Well, that might be how you subjectively interpreted the look, but it definitely was not the author’s original intent” (an appeal to hermeneutics)!

Trained arguer: “Oh, okay.” (Smiles and goes on happy with life because they understood what you just said and were impressed that you used a phrase they commonly utilize. Those words have been accepted.)

Win goes to the average arguer.

Tip #4: Stay Logical

Don’t take the word “logical” lightly. By all means be sure your argument is logically sound and valid (or you will never hear the end of it from the trained arguer). This also goes back to Tip #1 (it was #1 for a reason). In your homework study time bounce the argument off of another “average arguer.” If you have access to another “trained arguer” run it by them too. If someone points out a logical error in your argument you need to stop, try and fix it, or scrap what you have and start over.

Once a trained arguer (who I am married to) said to me:

“I don’t know anything about this subject we are discussing — but I know you’re reasoning is flawed because your argument is not logically valid. Your conclusion does not follow from the premises even if all of your premises happen to be true!”

Ugh! Yet again, another win for the trained arguer! I vowed that day to strive to avoid formal or informal fallacies at all costs. These easy wins must come to an end!

Know this: the trained arguer is thinking about logic all day every day. He loves logic. He gets excited to study logic. He eats, drinks, and breathes logic. So to offer him an argument which contains false premises and is not even constructed properly (such as Richard Dawkins’ horrible attempt at arguing for atheism in his book, The God Delusion), will result in your doom! The trained arguer will wipe the floor with you.

This is probably why Richard Dawkins refuses to debate William Lane Craig. Check out this short video by clicking here. We must avoid the mistakes of Richard Dawkins. We must do better!

Tip #5: Know when to walk away and know when to run.

Perhaps this is something Dawkins has done right — by running scared from all invitations to debate Dr. Craig!

Sometimes the training the trained arguer has experienced is just too much to handle as his tactics are far superior to those of the average arguer. Think to yourself:

1- Do I have time for the homework it will take to argue this topic?
2- Am I caught up on the lingo needed for this type of argument?
3- Do I have airtight logic?
4- Am I mentally prepared to argue for what might last for days (because the trained arguer never seems to tire of the debate).

If you said ‘no’ to any of the above then run, save yourself, and live to argue another day. Be smart.

Don’t be disheartened If you don’t see any wins right away after you start using the above techniques. Winning an argument with a trained arguer is an art form that takes a lot of practice. You can do it and by all means stay logical.

As my husband says, “Truth and logic are inextricably linked. You can’t have one without the other.” So, if you believe that your views on a certain topic are true, then learn how to logically argue for truth. That is how arguments are won and minds are changed. I’ve learned this first hand.

Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18),

Tia (not Tim) Stratton


Note

Most of these words are Tia’s. However, Tim “the editor” (insert eye roll) decided to add several words that Tia would never use. So, the parts that are good, are Tia’s — the “wordy” parts are Tim’s! 😉

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About the Author

By Tia Stratton (not Tim)

Tia Stratton is a normal person who works a normal day job and loves her family. She enjoys CrossFit, a funny movie, and driving faster than the speed limit (even though she still loves Jesus). Tim is actually Tia's husband.