The Ten Golden Rules of Argument
October 8, 2014 1:58 PM   Subscribe

See it MY way Do you think that if you explain why you believe it, that any intelligent person would agree? See: The Ten Golden Rules of Argument October 1, 2014 by Shane Parrish
posted by naight (53 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 
I wish someone would respond so I can argue with them using the new techniques. And when I say new techniques I mean actually planning or thinking about what I am going to say, actually listening to what they have to say, having an outcome in mind and watching out for the old crafty tricks.
posted by 724A at 2:18 PM on October 8, 2014


Rule #11: Accept the possibility that you may be wrong, and take the other person's arguments seriously.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:23 PM on October 8, 2014 [23 favorites]


Obligatory Monty Python skit.
posted by mono blanco at 2:25 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


We can work it out....
posted by jonmc at 2:28 PM on October 8, 2014


The people that I know who are experts at persuasion and conflict diffusion break every goddamn rule there is and have more dirty tricks up their sleeves than a hoarding magician. Watching them do their persuasion magic is impressive and scary.

10 golden rules? Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:28 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


As a general rule, Herring writes, “you should spend more time listening than talking. Aim for listening for 75 percent of the conversation and giving your own arguments 25 percent.” And listening doesn’t mean that you’re thinking about what you’re going to say next.

This is really important, and something I am trying to be better at every day.

I often fail.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:29 PM on October 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


On the other hand:

8. Be able to argue in writing

Always choose clarity over pomposity. Be short, sharp, and to the point, using language that is easily understood.


Doesn't this encourage the internet quip, which is usually designed more to vent frustration than convince anyone?
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:33 PM on October 8, 2014


The best kind of disagreements, in my experience, lead both parties to some new place where neither had been before. I don't think that can happen when both parties are only diametrically opposed to each other. Like, billiard balls moving in pure opposition just cancel each other out (or one is overwhelmed by the force of the other). I love the arguments where both parties end up moving on a whole new vector. I think some of these tips are really good for that.

pretty sure i used vector wrong there. i'm not a mathematician
posted by DGStieber at 2:34 PM on October 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


No.
posted by smidgen at 2:34 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Maybe...
posted by smidgen at 2:34 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, alright... fine.
posted by smidgen at 2:35 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


12: Do not fall victim to any of the classic blunders.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:40 PM on October 8, 2014 [14 favorites]


Metafilter: developing the skills of arguing, in public
posted by michaelh at 2:49 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


13) Godwin the thread by comment 14.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:50 PM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


The best kind of disagreements, in my experience, lead both parties to some new place where neither had been before.

So ... You're saying I should slip some 'shrooms to said parties?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:51 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


No, seriously... I have recently had to duck an argument with someone because they predicate everything on this set of assumptions:

1) their opinions are facts.
2) my opinions are worthless, and will be picked apart until we get to something I can't prove at some molecular level so that
3) they win (?)

I do not engage with people like this any more, and unfortunately it's becoming half the godamm human race.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:52 PM on October 8, 2014 [13 favorites]


A useful rule that isn't mentioned there is to be alert for the emotion behind the logic, so you can either address that or determine that it can't be addressed. You can't think people out of a position they felt themselves into.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:55 PM on October 8, 2014 [17 favorites]


I do not engage with people like this any more, and unfortunately it's becoming half the godamm human race.

Yes, but which half? This is important.
posted by michaelh at 2:56 PM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Rules of Arguing In Bad Faith Effectively,

#1 Figure Out How You Are Making Money or Benefiting from Taking This Position.
"Even if you're not directly making money, you should be getting something out of the argument. This ranks from the lowly 'making somebody else mad' to the vaunted 'being paid thousands of dollars by a think-tank to fig leaf their actions'."

#2 Destroy the Truth.
"The truth is irrelevant. What matters is having a consistent invented narrative that fits your just-so story. Use flash cards, if necessary. When your opponent argues against your narrative it helps to either directly call them a liar, or infer it (depending on venue). Convincing is hard, but casting doubt is easy."

#3 Destroy the Self.
"Your own opinions should not exist. The only opinion you have is that you're right, and they're wrong."

#4 Destroy the Other.
"Your opponent is a roadblock to rule #1. Although not strictly necessary, making them feel bad and impugning their character are both bonuses that will help strengthen your own position and also weaken their own defenses. This is especially effective in the case that you aren't currently winning, in which case ad-hominem attacks will serve to distract the listener."

#5 Understand the Conditions of Victory.
"It's very likely that you will convince no-one with your argument, and in fact may not even desire to. Instead your position may (even likely will) be to demonstrate a position of ideological strength for those who already support you with no actual resolution to the matter at hand. Debate clubs are for children. Focusing on victory predicated on out-logicing your opponent is a sure path to defeat."

#6 Simplicity is Power.
"Nothing is simpler than what your audience already believes to be true."

#7 Memorability is Power.
"The human mind is weak and can only grasp a few things from a long argument. Make sure it's grasping what you have said."

#8 Power is Power.
"If you're arguing for money, then chances are your employers are powerful. Argue from this power as evidence that you are already right. If you're arguing for fun, then chances are you aren't limited by truth or ethics. Argue from this freedom to outmaneuver your opponent."

#9 Numbers are Magic.
"Most people are scared of numbers, and will avoid taking you to task for anything but the most egregious errors. Use numbers liberally to project strength. By backing your argument with numbers you position yourself with the fatherly opprobrium of the angry math teacher."

#10 There is No End.
"The ultimate sign of weakness is quitting. You are never wrong, and you never back down."
posted by codacorolla at 3:03 PM on October 8, 2014 [23 favorites]


You can't think people out of a position they felt themselves into.

Or as my grandmother put it, People convinced against their will, are of the same opinion still.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:05 PM on October 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Here are my 10 Golden Rules of Arguing:

1) Fuck you
2) Shut up
3) Eat a dick
4) Humans are rubbish and nothing you say or do matters so just stop it
5-9) *doesn't go back to that stupid fucking thread because it's full of idiots*
10) *closes account*
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:06 PM on October 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


Rule 0: Don't assume that the people you are arguing with are going to do any of the following 10 rules
posted by 23skidoo at 3:12 PM on October 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


I don't really get in "arguments" anymore, at least how I think of that word. Sure, as a lawyer it's my job to argue on behalf of my client. But in social situations? I'll definitely express how I feel about something and present facts etc., but if someone disagrees I more or less let them have the disagreement. I might respond with clarifications and other things, but I'm done with trying to convince people. (If they're going to think about what I said, they will; if they won't, they won't.) Especially politically. It just doesn't work in my experience. If someone keeps trying to goad me into an argument, I either won't engage or I'll respond in a jokey way if it feels particularly obnoxious. I find this makes my life easier. So my rule #11 is just don't get in arguments.
posted by naju at 3:13 PM on October 8, 2014 [13 favorites]


6. Watch out for crafty tricks

7. Don't step in a big hole

8. sometimes you see a tunnel or doorway but dont just run imto it becuase maybe it might be a rock not a real hole, its just painted

9. dont look into the back of a rocket... EVER

10. be careful out there

11. if you get very mad and you're on a little branch, PLEASE think twice abuot stomping on it in anger - THEY VERY OFTEN BREAK
posted by Greg Nog at 3:14 PM on October 8, 2014 [19 favorites]


If you want to persuade someone to your point of view, you have to view them as potential allies and not as enemies to be vanquished. It's really no more complicated than that. It's easy to be persuaded by someone who takes your views and concerns seriously, who listens, who is willing to concede it when you make good points, and who nevertheless presents their view consistently, thoughtfully, and with good evidence and reasoning. Have a good argument ready and see it as a discussion, an exchange, and more often than not, one of the two of you will come to agree more than disagree.

The reason why this isn't as easy to do as that makes it sound is two deeply confounding factors.

The first, especially relevant in public social contexts like MeFi and the like, is that you're often not actually engaging with that other person, you're engaging with an audience. This isn't a mistake -- there's a lot of times when finding common ground with someone will do your cause more harm than good among the audience. All the things that might make it possible to forge some agreement between you and someone else might end up just providing fodder for those with the strongest positions against yours. You don't want to empower them, and rightly so. A lot of times in that situation, not getting into the argument in the first place is the best bet. Having a discussion with someone else present and in a way that presents your views in the best light, will do more to help your position with the others present than would engaging in a direct battle with an opponent. You're not going to vanquish that opponent (because that never happens) and anything productive you do with them would likely end up muddying the waters for everyone else. That's sort of pessimistic and bleak, but it's just human social nature.

The second is just emotional investment and getting upset. I've found in personal arguments that even when I'm quite strongly intellectually aware of what I need to do to make the argument productive instead of destructive, it's still really, really hard to do because I'm upset and the other person is upset. Feeling hurt, disrespected, feeling angry ... those trigger instinctive reactions which are, for most of us, pretty much the opposite of what it takes to turn an argument around into something productive.

Among the most frustrating experiences for me are when I actually really want to persuade someone because I respect them and their opinion but I think they're wrong about something, and I find that because they are so emotionally invested and in an oppositional mood that there's nothing I can figure out to say that will move the discussion into productive territory. It's really satisfying when I occasionally work my way through those difficulties, but often I just have to step away.

"A useful rule that isn't mentioned there is to be alert for the emotion behind the logic, so you can either address that or determine that it can't be addressed. You can't think people out of a position they felt themselves into."

But mainly this. People have reasons that they feel the things they do that motivate their beliefs and opinions. And while in a lot of situations that's not quite so important, and you can talk about the beliefs and opinions alone, whenever there's any significant conflict what's really at stake at that point are those feelings underneath. You can't really get anywhere if you ignore those. You don't have to address them directly -- sometimes that's a big mistake, actually -- but you have to somehow deal with them. It's like the things I mentioned about how I feel -- if I'm feeling disrespected or treated unfairly or that I'm being personally attacked, then unless the other person somehow says or does something to reduce those feelings, then that's all it's going to be about for me, even if we're ostensibly talking about something else. That's how other people are. It's very often not actually about what it's ostensibly about.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:15 PM on October 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


I do not engage with people like this any more, and unfortunately it's becoming half the godamm human race.

Yes, but which half? This is important.


The wrong half, duh!
posted by BlueHorse at 3:32 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Rule 0: Don't assume that the people you are arguing with are going to do any of the following 10 rules

I honestly read this as "Rule 0: Don't consume the people you are arguing with..."

I will confess that a) my eyesight is bad this evening and b) I have been watching Hannibal.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:46 PM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Aim for listening for 75 percent of the conversation and giving your own arguments 25 percent.

If both sides follow this rule, what happens during the other 50% of the conversation?
posted by mullacc at 3:49 PM on October 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Seething.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:51 PM on October 8, 2014 [15 favorites]


both sides follow this rule, what happens during the other 50% of the conversation?

I think it's like that statistic where men think they're doing more housework/childcare than they actually are. If you tend to talk a lot, and you aim for listening 75% of the time, you'll maybe end up talking about 50% of the time.
posted by jaguar at 3:53 PM on October 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Ooh! Another big one is to understand that winning is a long game; and by arguing honestly and in good faith at all times, even when it seems like you're giving up advantage, you're slowly, painstakingly laying the groundwork to convince the people who are eventually going to be on your side for good.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:59 PM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Is this where I should go to propose that the White Album is the worst Beatles album?
posted by Navelgazer at 4:01 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Navelgazer-Why argue about an objective fact? Fuck Rocky Raccoon! Number 9! Number 9 ad-fuckin' infinitum. The more boring take of "Revolution." I think I could come up with something I hate about every track.
posted by Captain l'escalier at 4:07 PM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Try to seethe it my way.
posted by biffa at 4:10 PM on October 8, 2014 [11 favorites]


That's how I feel! And motherfucking Glass Onion straight to the bowels of Glass Onion shit!
posted by Navelgazer at 4:11 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


15. Do not waste your time defending your favorite Beatles album when you are really a Kinks person anyway.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:12 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Aim for listening for 75 percent of the conversation and giving your own arguments 25 percent.

If both sides follow this rule, what happens during the other 50% of the conversation?


stillness

.
.
.
.

out of which erupts the conviction that Revolution 9 is The Only Beatles Track That Even Matters post I Am The Walrus. You Are All Wrong.
posted by philip-random at 4:14 PM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


We Can Work It Up Your Arse.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:29 PM on October 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


this is a good list but it's gonna be tough to win without a car metaphor
posted by fleacircus at 4:47 PM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


"I do not engage with people like this any more, and unfortunately it's becoming half the godamm human race."

The two actually effective ways to engage people like that are 1) to ask them to explain their opinions in more detail, and 2) to reframe through personal experience.

There was an interesting article about persuading people that I couldn't post because my org took part in the project called 'How do you change someone's mind about abortion? Tell them you had one' that covers a lot of what actually works.
posted by klangklangston at 5:03 PM on October 8, 2014


A useful rule that isn't mentioned there is to be alert for the emotion behind the logic, so you can either address that or determine that it can't be addressed. You can't think people out of a position they felt themselves into.

I think sometimes it can be pretty easy to convince people of your side of the argument if they just have an emotional feeling about it and haven't really thought things through logically. I have seen that with gay marriage a lot over the years, many people just felt that being gay was weird and that the laws should stay the same, but once all of the actual reasons for gay marriage are laid out they don't really have a problem with gay marriage being legal.

What's more important in my opinion is what the person gets out of having the view that they have. It's like the old quote, it's difficult to get someone to understand something if their salary depends on not understanding it. If someone believes something that isn't true but that makes their life better or makes them feel better about themselves, offering to trade them that belief for having the correct view but losing all of the other benefits might seem like a bad deal.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:05 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


This guy's last name is Herring?
posted by etc. at 7:37 PM on October 8, 2014


A useful rule that isn't mentioned there is to be alert for the emotion behind the logic, so you can either address that or determine that it can't be addressed.
To me that is covered in #5: "...What are their preconceptions?..." I mean, to me, that's what emotions are; they are notions. They are not rights or priveleges. Emotions are a luxury. I grew up around a lot of people who didn't value emotions. It took me a loooong time to understand why. Emotions take alooooot of energy that could be better served elsewhere.

One thing that I have found useful is to expand the "argument" into a big enough circle that it includes both (or more) sides; i.e., find common ground. And then from there, really try to widdle the "argument" down to the true disagreement and explore from there. There is language/tone that tends to remove common barriers/defenses in alot of people. One that keeps me in the right frame of mind is some form of "Maybe consider...or...Have you ever considered..." Obviously, tone is of utmost importance. Zero condescension...so to be safe...no emotion. It is a practiced skill to remain unaffected but still engaged, searching to paths towards progress. It is soooo worth the effort though! There are boundless things waiting to be fully massaged.
posted by Emor at 7:39 PM on October 8, 2014


I'm going to have to say that "potential allies" is pretty much a lost cause now, for a few reasons.

First, "ally" has been trashed as a word. You'll hear someone say, "Well, men can be allies but not actual feminists" and you won't hear a lot of pushback on from the people who are in a position to do so. Thus, now "ally" sounds like, "Sit down and shut up. When I tell you to, hold this sign and march in formation." Wow. Sounds great. Where do I sign up? This happens all over the place, in pretty much every movement which has a goal of gaining new members. Ally sounds like "resource."

Second, the potential part is just all off. People aren't just wandering aimlessly over the landscape, empty-headed, waiting to be converted to whatever it is you have in mind. They might have thoughts of their own. Now, if you told me that you were ready to be their potential convert, and made me believe it, maybe you could get somewhere with that.

A little humility goes a long way.
posted by adipocere at 8:13 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


We Can Work It Up Your Arse.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:29 AM on October 9


TISM: The Lost Years
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:51 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Something about land war in Asia.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:58 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


16)When you are losing, make a metatalk thread and accuse the mods of bias.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:17 AM on October 9, 2014


11. Don't interrupt before the other person has finished making their point. Very often a point of argument takes more than a single statement to develop properly. This is always true if the argument is complex, or controversial, or about a sensitive subject. Don't pre-judge where you think the person's argument is going - or where it's coming from - before you hear it fully developed.

Ben Affleck: take note. Also, in fairness, Richard Dawkins: I love you man, but this is, at least sometimes, why you get shit for your tweets and then have to write paragraphs explaining yourself more fully.
posted by Decani at 2:41 AM on October 9, 2014


17. Never start a ground war in Asia.
posted by malocchio at 6:53 AM on October 9, 2014


Damnit, Joakim Ziegler, I didn't even see that.
posted by malocchio at 7:00 AM on October 9, 2014


6. There is no rule 6.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 11:32 AM on October 9, 2014


Rule #1: Cardio.
posted by ostranenie at 12:10 PM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I never get into arguments in physical spaces with people. East Asian non-conflict personality and all that. I mostly just consider viewpoints amongst friends. We definitely don't agree but we can hold these positions as perfectly valid.

For online arguments, I used to not get any responses. This is partially because I tend to either state easy facts or short opinions, but outside of a certain political issue I never feel the need to snark (and before Metafilter, emotion), as I can't get out of the habit of viewing that as erroneous mental dismissal of the other side, and that just makes my stuff bland.
posted by halifix at 12:25 PM on October 9, 2014


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