We suck at arguing

Lucas Counts, Editorial Board Member

You suck at arguing and that makes you a bad person.

Doesn’t that statement make you want to convert to my viewpoint? 

Probably not, yet this is how many people argue.

At a time when civil discourse can quickly rot into an unproductive yelling match in the Youtube comment section or on a Twitter thread, it is more valuable than ever for us to learn to debate and discuss in a productive way.

  • Seek to learn, not to convert someone to your viewpoint

When discussing politics, religion, or even whether your favorite sports team is successful (looking at you, Mariners), it is valuable that we maintain the right attitude during the conversation. We should not expect to change anyone’s mind. 

When was the last time someone said “you are wrong for thinking this way,” and you responded by immediately changing your beliefs? Probably never. But sometimes well-meaning people around us, sometimes even family members, try to argue a person into adopting their viewpoint. 

Ask questions to learn, not to change someone’s mind! When we get into a debate regarding a topic we disagree with another about, our goal should always be to come out of that conversation more knowledgeable about why the other person believes what they believe.

  • Truly listen to the other person’s point of view

It’s not just about how you enter a conversation, but also about how we show up to a discussion. Being a good listener and letting the other person share their ideas and experiences demonstrates your respect for the other person. This increases the likelihood that they will treat you with that same level of kindness and courtesy. 

We should all listen with the intent of coming away from the discussion with new knowledge. Try your best to fully hear the other person out rather than only focusing on what you will add to the conversation next.

  • Don’t get personal when you disagree with someone

If the viewpoint of another upsets you, try to remember this: you are mad at the concept, idea, or way of thinking from the other person–not the person themselves. Therefore, we can all avoid name calling and putting down other people. Another great way to avoid getting personal during a disagreement is to use “I” statements rather than “you” statements. 

Imagine that you and I are arguing about whether pineapple belongs on pizza. If I say, “You are wrong for eating pineapple pizza and this makes you a bad person,” that sort of phrasing will probably come across as condescending and unaccepting. On the contrary, if I say, “I personally do not believe in eating pizza with pineapple on it,” this statement is not condescending and provides you an opportunity to share about why you respectfully disagree and we can have a discussion that can lead to finding common ground. The “I” statement above has a very different tone than the “you” statement. 

To recap, by seeking to learn rather than convert, truly listening to the other person’s point of view, and avoiding getting personal during disagreements, we can have constructive conversations that enrich our perspective of the world around us. The way we argue with others can either lead to bridges of understanding being built or burnt. By adopting an attitude characterized by respect and a willingness to learn from others during debates, we can engage in meaningful conversations that help us grow as individuals.