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How to argue in a healthy, balanced way.

Difference of opinion is a natural part of life. But it leads to arguments and disagreements. Nobody likes to lose an argument, and the failure to argue reasonably can lead to serious problems. But there are techniques that can help.

Arguments are inevitable. Whether in a professional setting, a social setting or relationship, difference of opinion regularly arise and arguments and debates ensue. Arguing in itself is not a bad thing. If done properly it can lead to better understanding and stronger relationships. But most of us are untrained when it comes to argument. We often fall back on our emotions, and emotions cannot reasonably battle each other. Thus, most arguments disintegrate into shouting matches and fights and grudges and long-standing animosity. But adopting a structured approach to argument can alleviate and prevent long term problems. Here are six ways you can argue constructively. These approaches are useful in many settings – in the workplace, in social settings, and in relationships.

1. Stay away from personal attacks

Personal attacks are a sure way to turn an argument into something ugly - a resentment, a nasty fight, or irreparable animosity. Remember arguments are usually due to differences in opinion and not a clash of personalities. Keep your argument in lane and avoid personal attacks that do not have anything to do with the issue you are arguing about.

2. Don’t use escalator words

This is linked to personal attacks mentioned above. Words that do not add any factual evidential weight to your argument are unnecessary. Avoid name- calling or using words and phrases like “you are…stubborn, stupid, idiot, unreasonable, ridiculous, pathetic, silly, ignorant…..etc

3. Continuously re-state what you are arguing about

You will be amazed how most arguments creep out of scope fast. People stray so far form the original argument that they start arguing about everything and anything. An argument becomes general and spill into other parts of our lives where they have differences. For example, an argument about a shopping list can easily end up being about how one's mother is a control freak or how one forgot the anniversary last year. Avoid scope creep by restating, “So, we are arguing about - - - - and your opinion is ---- and mine is ----"

4. Set parameters and tolerances

Each person should state clearly what it will take to change their point of view. This helps the other person frame their argument in a more constructive way. In fact, if you both realise you do not have what it takes to convince the other person, you will be able to agree to disagree quickly. When that happens you can declare the argument a tie and move on amicably. If that fails: Mexican standoff!!

5. Conclude the argument

You will be surprised how many arguments never get concluded or resolved. Sometimes arguments linger for a long time after they are supposedly finished. Arguing parties should agree that the argument is indeed over and what the resolution is. Did the other person change their point of view or opinion or some elements? On what points did you come to an agreement and on what do you still differ? And what will you do about those differences moving forward? You may need to re-visit the parameters about what (evidence/information) it would take to convince the other person. You can then resit the temptation to re-ignite the argument unless those conditions are met.

6. Discuss what will happen next

You must discuss and agree what happens next. Do you forget about the argument and agree to never bring it up again? Do you agree to revive the argument only when certain conditions are met, for example adequate proof, evidence, or other specified circumstances). This should be stated and agreed explicitly, not assumed.


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