Winning an argument isn’t always a simple case of presenting the facts and hoping for the best—it’s an art form, one that researchers have been shedding light on for years. Whether you’re looking to win a social disagreement at your next dinner party, sort out a spat with your significant other, or prove a point in a professional environment, we rounded up the best expert advice on how to master the art of arguing. Keep reading to arm yourself with expert advice.
1. Don’t just rely on the facts.
Relying on facts and details won’t do you any favors when it comes to winning arguments–particularly political ones.
“People think emotionally, and they very often will have these gut moral intuitions that certain things are right or wrong,” explained Matthew Feinberg, a psychologist at Stanford.
Contrary to what seems logical, people often reach decisions about a matter before hearing the facts, and then use the facts to support their decision. Feinberg notes that people “come to the conclusion first, and then the reasons they kind of pull out just to support their beliefs.”
2. It’s more important to be confident than smart–so back yourself, girl.
It doesn’t matter how compelling your case is, if you don’t deliver it with confidence, you might not get anywhere.
In fact, a recent study found that people are more likely to listen to your views if you simply act like you are right. People also look for things like extroversion, gender, race, and level of confidence when making up their minds about another’s argument–not just facts.
3. Lose the attitude.
Relax, we know “Orange Is the New Black” is way better than “House of Cards,” but losing your cool won’t help your case one bit. Being nice can actually improve your chances of winning an argument as people tend to be more open-minded when they’re happy and at ease.
“When people have their self-worth validated in some way, they tend to be more receptive to information that challenges their beliefs,” Peter Ditto, a psychology professor at UC-Irvine explained.
4. “Everyone agrees with me,” is actually a decent argument.
People generally like to conform with the group’s opinions, so it really does help if you aren’t the only person pushing your point.
In “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” author Robert Cialdini explains that showing “social proof” can be strong evidence convincing a person that your point of view is the right one.
5. Use a graph.
If you’re going in for a serious argument, you should do everything and anything to make your point of view seem scientific–including using a graph. A recent study from Cornell University researchers shows that people trust scientists: “The prestige of science appears to grant persuasive power even to such trivial science-related elements as graphs,” the research paper explains.
6. Ask your opponent to write out a plan.
A big part of winning an argument is convincing the other person that they are wrong. To do this, BBC Future suggests you ask them to outline exactly how their idea would work.
Often people make up their mind about something, even when we only have a basic understanding of the topic–and no idea as to why or how our belief would actually work. In these cases simply asking your opponent to go into details, could win the battle for you.
7. Ask open-ended questions.
This one is particularly handy when disagreeing and debating (or, ahem, fighting) with your significant other. Psychologist John Gottman explained to Business Insider that asking open questions allows your partner to open up. The same goes for professional argument–asking an open-ended question could help you both come to a cooperative solution.
What are your own tips for taking out any argument? Let us know in the comments below!