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Four ways to be a better arguer

An article in Scientific American presents four ways that research shows can improve your likelihood of winning arguments:

  1. Open your mind. If you’re too busy trying to push your own point of view, you’re apt to ignore even the most reasonable evidence and arguments your opponent makes. If participants share an interest in discovering the right answer, it has been shown that truth wins.
  1. Have hope. In the middle of a heated argument, it’s tough to picture everything working out well in the end with your opponent. Yet remaining hopeful may actually help that happen.
  1. Change it up. To resolve well-worn arguments, we need to break out of the system by thinking and acting in ways we usually would not. Doing or saying the unexpected may feel strange or even fake at first, but behaving in a way that’s counter to what’s usual throws the other person off the pattern and thereby allows reframing.
  1. Try smiling. Defensiveness can derail an argument, sending it into a spiral of pure negative emotion. But a genuine laugh or smile can completely diffuse a tense situation and help turn it around.

The article concludes with this advice:

…the goal of arguing shouldn’t be to win at all costs, with intimidation, fact rattling, loud talking, even smack talking. A better, more satisfying end game of any argument is to find some common ground. Then, somehow, everybody wins.

Also published on Medium.

Bruce Boyes

Bruce Boyes ( is editor, lead writer, and a director of the award-winning RealKM Magazine ( and currently also teaches in the University of NSW (UNSW) Foundation Studies program in China. He has expertise and experience in a wide range of areas including knowledge management (KM), environmental management, program and project management, writing and editing, stakeholder engagement, communications, and research. Bruce holds a Master of Environmental Management with Distinction and a Certificate of Technology (Electronics). With a demonstrated ability to identify and implement innovative solutions to social and ecological complexity, Bruce's many career highlights include establishing RealKM Magazine as an award-winning resource for knowledge managers, using agile and knowledge management approaches to oversee the implementation of an award-winning $77.4 million river recovery program in western Sydney on time and under budget, leading a knowledge strategy process for Australia's 56 natural resource management (NRM) regional organisations, pioneering collaborative learning and governance approaches to support communities to sustainably manage landscapes and catchments, and initiating and teaching two new knowledge management subjects at Shanxi University in China.

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