Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How to Argue Effectively

This is a quick tutorial on how to argue effectively. Most people fail to argue effectively due to a lack of professional training or relevant experience in the matter; however, this can be quickly corrected with some mental pointers.

A key factor behind argumentative failure is a lack of focus into the aims of the argument, and consequently, the use of arguing methods unsuited to achieve those aims. The untrained arguer uses the same methods for all occasions, a mistake that often leads to frustration.

People may argue with one or more of the following three aims in mind. Each aim may best be pursued with a different method.

1. To Convince Another Of One's Views
One common aim is to convince another of one's views. It may be to convert another person to adopt one's views, or to get the other to perform some action according to one's suggestions. The motive here is to convert or subvert.

The untrained may attempt to use logical reasoning to achieve the task, but this is an extremely poor and inefficient method. Rather, sophism should be employed. Sophism is a style that employs the prejudices and emotions of the other to achieve the goal of conversion. Logic and reason are not necessary; in fact most people tend to be wary of such things. A brilliant and convincing statement often trumps the effects of any factual inaccuracy or logical inconsistency.

2. For Personal Satisfaction
The other common purpose of argument is as a vehicle of personal satisfaction. Pseudo-dominance is often established through verbal sparring, with the corresponding trophies of pride and bragging rights.

Most people fare decently here, but those that fail to understand their motives earn only frustration. Once again, logical reasoning is barely useful here; logic sometimes adds to the smug satisfaction of ridiculing the other, but it is too inefficient a weapon. The proper method is to attack the opponent's being. Personal attacks that are relevant should be employed with the aim of triggering an satisfying negative reaction in the other. Other underhanded methods of offense can similarly be considered.

3. To Explore A Topic
Logic is best used in cold and calm situations where the aim is to arrive at wise conclusions. Unfortunately, nobody really argues for the sake of gaining greater wisdom, not in today's age. Thus, we can safely ignore this rare category of argument.

I hope that after this very brief tutorial, the reader would have obtained a greater understanding of the tactics and strategies used in arguing, and such understanding subsequently put to use for the greater(!) benefit of society.

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