Sunday, November 4, 2007


These past two weeks I’ve gotten into arguments with some folk and I felt I should clear up some misconceptions about what an argument is and offer advice that promotes successful arguing. Some people will probably see this and think “woah that is way too long,” so for those who are slightly curious about my opinions on what an argument is enjoy.

We're going on a field trip, to a place called arguments. Most people find themselves at this particular location accidentally, so a formal trip might come in handy. Before we leave, you'll need a few things:


Speaking aptitude


Emotional stability

Some things that you may want to bring, but should not include:

Blind accusations


Hand movement



Now that we're prepared, let's embark on our short trip...but seriously. Why is it that people fail at arguments so often? Arguments have a negative connotation because most people are so inept that they don't understand the point of an argument. Arguments solve problems, pure and simply. An argument which does not solve a problem is useless, and should be avoided. I'll list a step-by-step process by which you can avert unnecessary arguments.

Step one is entering the argument. This is usually the result of a problem, or an imagined problem on the part of one party. Once someone presents their problem, it is the decision of the other party to argue, or to give in. I'm not saying that giving in is always bad, because sometimes someone will present you with a problem that is indeed your fault. Now, 90% of the time, this is not the case. Whether you did something and got caught for it, or the other person is sadly mistaken, the argument has already been incited.

Step two is providing insight as to why this problem may have arisen. For example, the trash has not been taken out, and it was your responsibility. Your reply should be the truth, of course. Did you forget, or did you simply think that the other person would become so tired of staring at a full trash can that they would take it out themselves? As I mentioned earlier, lies should be avoided.

Step three is unlike steps one and two because it is only taken by the instigator of the argument. You must decide whether or not this argument is worth pursuing. Can something positive arise from deliberating further? If yes, then by all means continue the argument. A particularly good time to do this is if you know for a fact the other person has told a lie. I should mention that assuming they are not telling the truth is not the same thing as knowing that they are lying. For example, if you saw them pass by the trash can, grimace, and then return to their quarters. If you simply THINK that the other person is lying, ask them to provide support.

Step four is the deliberation phase. Both sides provide points and counterpoints, arriving at a resolution. Now, that sounds easy, but as you may know it's quite difficult. Things that hinder arguments include obscenities, name-calling, repetition, circular reasoning, quoting the bible, bringing up unrelated information (yeah, well you date ugly girls!), etc. These things should be avoided at all costs. While they may give you a temporary satisfaction, it will be short-lived when they retaliate. During this step, some people feel the need to raise their voice. I'm not going to say that raising your voice is bad 100% of the time, but 80% is probably pretty accurate. Raising your voice should only be used to add credibility, and when used improperly it ends up diminishing any credibility that you already had. If you have a really substantial point to make, one that could possibly become lost in the sea of words, feel free to raise your voice. Just keep in mind that you could start a shouting match and lose all chance of having a successful argument if your point was actually moot. In general, you will find that the people that win arguments time and time again remain calm and collected, while their opponent is red in the face shouting vulgarities.

Step five is the cool-down stage. Both parties have expressed their views, and possibly come to some sort of compromise. If no compromise has been drawn, both parties have
accepted that the other simply views things differently on a fundamental level. Most religious debates end this way. Unfortunately, most arguments never reach step five. I consider an argument to be a success at this point.

Step six is the optional resolution step. If a resolution can be drawn, draw it here and move on. In a successful argument, both people involved are unoffended and possibly in a better mood than when the argument began. Keep this in mind, please.


Now that I've covered the steps to a successful argument, I will offer tips to avoid detrimental tangents that can cause your argument to run astray.

Crying. No one likes to see other people cry, so if a girl starts crying while you're arguing with her, either revert immediately to a calmer, soothing tone or end the argument there. No progress will be made if you continue to argue. If it's a guy crying, and you're his girlfriend, just dump him and call me at (813) 401-0722. We could go out or something.

Progressively escalated yelling. Otherwise known as a shouting match, this situation is often responsible for an unsuccessful argument. If you start to hear the other person raise his or her voice, simply lower yours, and if it becomes a real problem inquire as to why they're yelling. If you still haven't made any progress, use the fact that they're yelling against them. "If you're so right, why am I still so calm while you're yelling at the top of your lungs?"

Interruptions. Someone comes in the room, your phone rings, etc. The number one piece of advice I can offer in this situation is not to let your argument carry over outside of the people involved. If someone comes in the room, either politely ask if you could have a minute, or drop the argument and resume it at the next possible chance.

Name-calling. So they've decided that a good tactic might be to call you a poopy-pants liar. Well, in this situation, rather than succumb to the pressure of retaliating, simply ignore their schoolyard mentality. If it becomes a real problem, simply ask them what the current situation has to do with you being a no good double poopy-pants booger-eater.

Threats. This is a big one, especially in arguments between two guys. My advice for this situation might be a bit unorthodox, but it has worked for me more times than I can count. If someone threatens you physically, beat the piss out of them emotionally. If you don't possess the wit for this, just lay down and take it, chances are it's how nature intended. A good example that comes to mind is Shia Labeouf in Transformers. The dumb jock guy asks what he's doing, and Shia tells the jock that he's getting information for his new book, and then tells the jock that he'd like it since it has pictures that you can color in and all kinds of great stuff like that. Back to the point at hand. As soon as you are physically threatened, you have to mentally question their credibility. Will they really hit you? 90% of the time the answer to that question is a resounding 'no'. Use this to your advantage. Is that really all they've got, empty threats? Yawn, throw it in their face that obviously they can't go more than 10 minutes without resorting to violence to make up for the fact that they're wrong and incapable of admitting it.

Emotional appeals. "If you loved me, you'd take out the trash for me." This is the point where you re-evaluate your relationship. Everyone does things that they might not like for the ones they love, but it is NOT an obligation and by no means required. You do these things because you love them, not the other way around. If someone uses this to their advantage they are cowardly and wrong. Don't stand for it, throw it in their face.

My last piece of advice for arguments is as follows: Don't argue about things that you know nothing about. This includes arguing on behalf of someone else. If you're not a primary source for the information at hand, don't bother arguing about it or things will be lost in translation. This also goes for religious debates! Both sides! Don't just say all the same stuff everyone else says, make your own decisions. Stop using Pascals wager, stop quoting Kent Hovind. Stop saying that the Bible is riddled with contradictions, and stop quoting those same 3 verses from Laviticus. "Oh well I was talking to my friend about it and he seemed to know what he was talking about," is not an excuse.

Best of luck in your endeavours, whoever read this whole thing.


Adam Johns said...

I enjoyed this. Since I'm obviously procrastinating briefly before looking at graded entries, let me nitpick.

What do you call those situations where the argument is not meant to seek a resolution, but is a _performance_, put on for the benefit of an audience. An awful lot of arguments are really dictated by third parties.

Take political debates as one example...

Yomi said...

I say people should be more efficient with their oxygen intake and save their breath. Political debates are more of a way for politicians to inconspicuously voice their oppinions (or the opinions they want people to hear) on problems with difficult solutions towards a mass audience; essentially they sell their souls for votes. Argument performances dictated by a third party end up being more informative making individuals of the audience more aware about certain issues, enciting new ways to think about such things. I prefer to avoid these type of arguments so I can live a longer, efficient life.