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11 Tips on How to Win an Argument


In Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People, he states, “You can’t win an argument, because if you lose it, you lose, and if you win it, you lose.” With all due respect to the great Mr. Carnegie, sometimes you don’t need to win a friend, you need to win the damn argument. So, for those of you who have plenty of friends or feel confident that your friends will stick around once the dispute has ended; here are some tips to winning your next argument:

1. Know Your Objective

Know what your desired outcome is for the argument (besides winning). Do you want to change the other person’s viewpoint? Are you preventing someone from taking advantage of you? Are you defending yourself against an accusation? By having a clear objective or stance you’ll be less likely to veer off the subject. Plus, if you don’t know what you’re fighting for, you won’t know when you’ve won.

2. Listen First

Instead of talking over each other, allow the other person to make all of their points first. As they are talking, instead of thinking about what you will say next, listen. Really listen, paying close attention to everything they say. This will give you certain advantages. First of all, you will know what objections or opinions you will have to counter. Secondly, they will feel like they have been heard, which will take a bit of the “fight” out of them. It’s like a skilled boxer who hangs back while the other fighter wears himself out, and then goes in for the K.O.

3. Ask Questions

While the other person is speaking, be an active listener by repeating their arguments back to them in the form of a question. This forces them to defend their statements and will show the flaws in their argument. When you are asking the questions, be mindful of the tone in your voice. You don’t want to come across as being sarcastic. The slightest trace of sarcasm may make the other person feel attacked or angry. To be effective the questions should be asked with a tone of sincerity.

4. Control Yourself

Having control over your emotions will give you more control over the situation. Unless you’re on the Jerry Springer show, leave the histrionics out of it.

5. Lower Your Voice

Although it’s natural to want to raise your voice or yell at the other person, instead train yourself to talk softer when you’re in a confrontational situation. It may feel like you have to yell to be heard, but the opposite is true. By using a softer voice and lowering it an octave, you will come across more authoritative. As a result people will be more inclined to listen.

6. Stay on Subject

You can only win one argument at a time. So, stick to the subject at hand. By bringing up other issues nothing will be accomplished. You will end up forgetting what you were arguing about and it will be a waste of time and energy.

Also, keep your “opponent” on topic. If they try to use the tactic of changing subjects, reign them back in. Stand your ground and say, “We are not talking about that right now. We are talking about this.”

7. Don’t Make It Personal

Don’t take personal shots at your opponent just to win the argument. That’s not winning an argument, it’s being a bully. This doesn’t only apply to name-calling or saying rude things about their mother, it also applies to statements such as “You’re being defensive” or “Where do you come up with these things?” Also, refrain from rolling your eyes and snorts of derision. This kind of behavior is belittling and demeaning. If shredding the other person apart is the only way you can win, then you haven’t won anything.

If the other person takes personal shots at you, disengage and don’t take the bait. People say things in the heat of the moment that they don’t really mean. Ignore the comment and get the conversation back on track.

8. Choose Your Battles

Don’t feel that you have to fight every fight or win every point in an argument. Your victory will be hollow if the other person doesn’t make a few good points of their own. Refusing to acknowledge the other person’s valid arguments will make you look ignorant and immature. That’s not winning; it’s the equivalent of throwing a tantrum until the other person gives up.

9. Stay Focused

It’s easy to become distracted, especially if you are arguing in front of other people. You may feel the need to show off a little or blow things up bigger than they really are. This will only distract you from your desired outcome. You may also miss a key point or if the dynamics of the argument change. For instance, if you’re not paying attention, you may miss the fact that the other person is becoming enraged or if someone else has jumped into the mix and you are now arguing with two people instead of only one.

10. Know When It’s Over

Some people can get so caught up in an argument that they don’t realize when it’s over. The other person has conceded defeat. They are in complete agreement, yet the winner won’t stop arguing. At this point the person who is still arguing has mentally checked out and left the argument on autopilot.

Don’t force your opponent to repeatedly tell you that you’ve won before you stop talking. If you don’t recognize that the altercation is over, you could very easily talk your way into another argument without realizing it. Once you have achieved your desired outcome stop immediately and change the subject.

11. Be a Good Sport

Allow the other person walk away with their dignity. Toward the end of the dispute interject some good natured humor to lighten the mood, especially if things became a little heated. There’s no need to gloat. You’re clearly the superior person and should have nothing left to prove.

The point of an argument is to find a solution to a problem or to share differing viewpoints in a respectful way. It should be viewed as more of a negotiation than a screaming match. People argue for a variety of reasons. Friends have good natured debates. Couples have heated discussions over small things to avoid bigger issues. Parents argue with children in a battle over control. When disagreements leave one or both people feeling worse when it’s over, it wasn’t a successful argument. A healthy argument should leave both parties with their feelings intact and a sense that an issue has been resolved. If you happen to be the person who was more correct during the argument, then that’s even better.

What are some of the dirtiest tricks you have used or had used against you during an argument? Do you think that men argue differently than women? Leave your thoughts below.

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About Sheri Hosale

Sheri Hosale is a writer, former ballroom dancer and opinionated redhead. She likes British humor, Alabama football and picking through people’s brains like a knowledge-hungry zombie.

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