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How to win an argument without losing your composure

The 7 tools that will help you avoid the point of no return in a heated discussion

How to win an argument without losing your composure

These are difficult times in which enduring temperament in a discussion can be an art. Some people avoid touching sensitive topics with great friends to not break a relationship of years, some people skip a couple of family meals to avoid having to get angry with the brother in a new row and some who enters and leaves the office without making a sound to not have to get into an uncomfortable chat. But if you are not going to put your head under the wing and want to express their opinions in an educated way , even more, without making your interlocutor feel bad, then you must rely on temperamental control techniques to get out of any situation.

Hand in hand with psychology, science and personal experience you can develop skills that allow you to always remain calm, even though you are touching your red buttons. Sometimes it is just a matter of controlling the melody of his voice or managing the way he looks at his interlocutor, although in many cases he must go through an inevitable inner path of self-reflection that places him on a plane where he quickly gets into the place of the other. That is, there are no magic formulas that are worth; empathy is the first step to a comfortable victory in a debate. That said, there are small tricks and techniques that can help you complete your sentence excellence. Let’s see:

1. Avoid ‘sincericide’

How many times have you experienced a discussion that took an irreversible dramatic drift with an end to shouting and disqualification? Do all discussions always end like this? Would not it be better to avoid arguing at all costs? Sheila Estévez, psychologist specializing in emotional conflicts, explains that “to discuss is not bad, it is positive, healthy and fruit of maturity”. For the specialist it is always positive to talk “and if there are disagreements, it is necessary to negotiate them through a discussion”.

The problem is when we perceive that the content of a conversation produces a feeling of injustice , this causes us to “interpret an opinion as something that attacks our person and this emotion, together with anger, lights the alerts that will transform a meeting into a misunderstanding “, Continues Estévez. In these cases, those situations in which one already foresees that this encounter will have a point of no return “save sincericide,” says the psychologist. “It is not always necessary to say what one thinks. This will depend on the purpose, the emotional cost and the link with the person with whom we are discussing. There are situations in which between exposing yourself and saying nothing, it is healthier to show an ‘administrative silence’ if we do not want to feed a possible conflict a posteriori”.

2. Practice active listening

Active listening is a set of techniques designed to help you listen and understand what another person says and, consequently, help you to express yourself clearly. The first thing to do when applying active listening is ” not to take the opinion of others on a personal level , in the same way that others will not take their words as an attack against them,” Estévez explains. Once he is mentalized about this, he must “listen to the message instead of developing the answer while they are talking to him -this is a counterattack, most of the time-, with which we would not be discussing intelligently”, says the specialist.

As active listening focuses on both facts and feelings, it reduces stress and defensiveness, and allows conflicts to be resolved more effectively. If you want to learn more about the subject, the University of California offers a free course through the Coursera platform, with subtitles in Spanish, about this technique.

3. Beware of looking too much in the eyes

Looking into the eyes of your interlocutor has long been considered a way of demonstrating honesty and, in addition, attracting your listener and persuading him into his territory. Well, it seems that it is not exactly like that. A study published in the scientific journal Psychological Science shows that eye contact, in fact, can make people more resistant to persuasion, especially when they already disagree with you.

“Our findings show that direct eye contact makes skeptical listeners less likely to change their mind, no more, as was previously believed,” says the study’s lead researcher, Frances Chen.

To investigate the effects of eye contact in situations involving persuasion, Chen and his colleagues took advantage of eye tracking technology and exposed participants to different situations in which they should look in the eyes of their interlocutors. The researchers found that the more time participants spent looking into the eyes of a speaker, the less convinced they were of their arguments.

4. Module the tone

“It is important to take into account the tone and the words that are used when discussing, they must be expressed in a close tone, but not invasive, never raising the voice, or using words that may hurt sensitivity, a fact that naturally I would turn on the defensive alerts of those who listen to us or of those we are listening to, “advises Sheila Estévez.

In fact, tone could be an even more critical factor than semantics in a discussion. In a study published in Proceedings of Interspeech , a computer algorithm was designed that can predict the success of a couple relationship with 79% accuracy (better results compared with the predictive abilities of a couple therapist, by the way) by just analyzing the tone of voice of its members. “What you say is not the only thing that matters, it is very important how you say it,” recalls Md Nasir, one of the researchers in his study.

5. Respect the beliefs and values of your interlocutor

One of the golden rules for not ending a discussion which cock fight is to avoid entering the personal plane at all costs. You have to stop and think for a few seconds about your interlocutor’s vision and experience of the world (and that probably differs a lot from yours) and, with this, “be mentally open, do not judge and stay with what you contribute what you your interlocutor shares with you “, recommends the psychologist.

6. Make sure you have ‘allies’

Credibility. That is the word that separates him from winning an argument or losing it through the big door (yes, that which opens the way to anger). Credibility is key in a conversation to convince the other that their arguments are valid and difficult to refute. And although our arguments have all the truth of the world if we do not give them a brushstroke of credibility they can be quickly dismissed by an expert speaker.

How to get it? Make sure you find allies in your environment who think the same way you do. In a study at Cornell University they analyzed the Reddit ChangeMyView forum for a year and concluded, among other things, that the more people think differently than you the more they feel they are wrong they will have and therefore less credibility will enjoy their ideas. And the other way around, it will be easier to convince your interlocutor if you have a large number of backup people to defend your position.

If the support of the masses is not your thing then lean on the scientific method, in another study, quite curious published in Public Understanding of Science explains that, in general, people believe blindly what scientists say. This, extrapolated to a conversation, could be a competitive advantage to be able to win it. The more empirical and more data your response contains, the more persuasive you will have: show some graph with your mobile, some data from a contrasted source or a map of the conflict and your debate cache will go up quickly.

7. Alert with the power of persuasion

The mix of assertiveness, active listening and other tools of psychology can be a fabulous cocktail to help you stay calm. Also, if you are determined to assert your opinion then you should use persuasion techniques, but be careful: “Persuasion is a communicative style whose main objective is to change the attitude or behavior of a person, or a group of people, towards a event or idea, in a premeditated way… In this sense, that the opinion itself has more weight than that of other people is a double-edged sword If you do not know how to manage, transcending self-interest, “concludes Sheila Estévez, in short, consider yourself if you really want to change the opinion of others or just want to express your ideas.


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