The 10 Keys to Winning Any Argument

Updated: March 18, 2010

If you've ever seen a spider lure a fly into its web you'll know that brains not brawn is the secret to emerging victorious in any confrontational act. In an argument you should take the roll of the spider. Stay calm and focused as you build your case (web), and lead your opponent neatly into the sticky parts while you stay on safe ground yourself.

Have you been at the losing end of more than just one argument lately? Read on for some comprehensive keys that will help you unlock your winning strategies and lure your opponents into your web.

1. Soft and steady wins the race: It's basic human nature - the louder you talk, the louder your opponent shouts. An argument is not about who can out-shout the other, it's about making the other person see your point of view, by hook or by crook. One hook you can use to draw them to your side is to speak softly at all times, no matter what the provocation. Do not let your emotions get the best of you, for if you do, you let your defenses down. Remain calm under any circumstance, and at some point in the course of the argument, your opponent will run out of steam.

2. Information is power: Know your facts before you get involved in an argument. When you're able to provide absolute proof that you're telling all the facts, you have the added edge in coming out on top. If your opponent is as good at arguing as you are, it helps not to let errors and half-truths creep into your argument - he'll be sure to call you out on them.

3. Paying attention pays: Winning an argument does not entail just presenting your side of the case, you also have to listen very carefully to what your opponent is saying. Very often, you'll find openings in his statements that will allow you to gain the upper hand. Knowing and being able to understand the way your opponent thinks is an added advantage. At times, you can second-guess what he's planning to say and chart out your course of action accordingly.

4. Do not stray from the chosen path: Sticking to the subject during an argument is sometimes the most difficult thing to do. If you or your opponent veers to another topic, you tend to start an entirely new argument. One thing leads to another and the original purpose is lost among the myriad views that emerge. Sometimes, changing the subject may be a ploy used by your opponent to throw you off course. Take this as a sign that he feels threatened you'll win, and steer the subject back to the original.

5. Learn the art of manipulation: There are some individuals so stubborn that they will never admit when they are wrong, no matter how blatantly obvious it is. To deal with this species, it pays to be a master manipulator. A surefire way to win the argument against them involves you getting them to project your point of view as their own. Admittedly, this takes a great deal of skill and patience, but once you're adept at using your persuasive powers, you'll never lose an argument. And the best part is that there's no ill will on your opponent's part - after all, he thinks he's the victor.

6. The longer route is sometimes shorter: A worthy opponent will know how to bring you to your knees if you reveal your hand at the outset. An argument is like a game of poker - you have to play your cards close to your chest and try to bluff your way through to the end. Keep your plans up your sleeve and put your points across in random order so that your opponent is left guessing where you're going till the very end. This leaves him with no time to plan his argument, and you've succeeded in putting him on the defensive.

7. Eat humble pie: Being human means we are entitled to our fair share of mistakes. The greatness of an individual lies not in being right all the time, but in being man enough to admit that he was wrong when he makes a mistake. When you realize in the middle of an argument that you are in the wrong, be the bigger person and say so. You'll find your opponent's respect for you go up several notches. Admitting you're wrong when you are will also make it easy for people to actually believe you are right when you emphatically state so. While on the subject of mistakes, let me add that it's never a good idea to accuse your opponent of being wrong. It's ok if you can back up your accusation with hard facts, but otherwise, it's only going to get his hackles raised.

8. Silence is golden: Sometimes, silence is the most effective argument. Stop talking in the middle of the argument and stay quiet no matter what your opponent says or does. Use this tactic after you've made a pretty strong point and your opponent is trying to bluster his way out of the net you've entangled him in. You'll find that the argument dies a natural death when only one person is powering it. Your opponent may not admit that he's lost, but you'll know you've won when he turns around and walks away.

9. Don't play dirty: No matter how low your opponent stoops, never resort to name-calling, swearing or attacking him on a personal level. Racial, social and cultural slurs reflect poorly on you and only emphasize that you are not confident in your knowledge of the argument's subject. Stay calm and collected, even when your opponent is showering you with the choicest epithets.

10. The argument against arguments: Never argue just for argument's sake. It's the worst thing to do. If you're the kind who argues for every single issue under the sun, you'll find your credibility questioned even when you really need to engage in a real argument.

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