How do you have productive arguments?

I love and have always loved arguing, not for the sake of arguing or because I see it as a fun challenge, but for the meaning behind it.

Maze - left or right

When I think about an argument, I imagine two people trying to uncover the truth about something; and the truth is knowledge, and knowledge is a wonderful thing to have. I believe that is the true meaning of an argument, the collective pursuit of truth (happy to argue on this). Once you agree on this definition, your opinion about an argument and your strategy during one will change.

Beliefs about arguments

I believe that the point of an argument is to obtain the truth about some subject matter, and that’s what characterizes a successful argument. In a proper argument, either both people win, or both people lose because either both argued properly and are now closer to the truth than before or they didn’t and now might be further away from the truth.

Let’s say Amy and Bob are arguing for points A and B, and Amy convinces Bob that point A is the truth when in fact it isn’t. Does this make Amy the winner? Amy has now convinced Bob to stray further away from the truth, and now because one more person believes in Amy, she is even more convinced that point A is correct. In my opinion, everybody loses in this scenario. If, however, both Amy and Bob get to the bottom of the topic and both now believe in a view that is closer to the truth, then they both win. It doesn’t matter which one changed their mind. Changing your mind in an argument when you were wrong is not losing! It is moving closer to the truth without letting petty things like pride blind you. This is the mindset of a winner, and now both Amy and Bob are winners because they both have won knowledge. This is how people improve themselves through arguments.

Arguing correctly (or effectively)

With the above statement in mind, here is what I think about arguing correctly:

Both people in an argument must defend their points with all their might and ability.

This is the only way to help ensure that the truth is found. The last thing you want is for the person that actually has the correct viewpoint to give in quickly because they don’t like to argue; because then, everyone loses. We need to avoid this scenario, and the best way to do so is to defend your point correctly.

If you are having an argument and the other person is giving in quickly, it is your duty to try to prevent that from happening. Encourage them to continue. Ask them more questions and try to discuss more in-depth. This approach is best for your own sake; unless you care nothing about the truth and only about having other people agree with you, which is a problem. Beyond fighting to defend your point, both parties must also question everything, even their own points.

Holding a stone

Leave no stone unturned in the quest for knowledge.

Another important point is to know when to give in and admit you were wrong. This is harder said than done since this evokes negative emotions in people. Once you realize the other person’s point is correct, don’t waste any time and quickly admit it. Immediately you can start thinking from that point of view and ask the right questions to ensure you have inched closer to the truth.

In fact, I always surprise people in arguments because I give in quickly if and when I believe to be incorrect in my thinking. I enjoy and am good at arguing and always put up a great fight (for the reasons mentioned above), however the moment I realize the correct point is not mine, I very quickly and non-confrontationally concede. Because of how easily I concede (when needed), some people think that I did not truly change my mind but am just tired of arguing and want them to stop, which is definitely not the case.

To sum up my points, one should go into an argument with their full intention to convince the other, with an open mind to listen to the counter-arguments, and with a willingness to uncover the truth. In other words, be ready to argue as loud as thunder and concede as fast as lightning.


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