No matter our persuasions, we all like to be right. This means that when your perspective confronts someone else’s, it can be very difficult to change their mind. Even if you are armed with passion, facts, and the will to argue your position to the death. But how can you win an argument and get someone to shift their position if everyone likes to be right?

How to Win an Argument Using Science

In this post, we will take you through 7 science-based hacks. These will give you the skills you need to know how to win an argument.

Changing the way people think is never easy. However, using these scientific hacks, you’ll stand a better chance of winning over even the most argumentative of souls.

Be respectful

Even if you think someone’s opinion is ludicrous, you are not going to win someone over to your way of thinking. Especially if you go straight in mocking their beliefs. Even if you don’t, try to demonstrate that you respect their opinion. Then, you are more likely to make them feel their self-worth validated.

Use phrases like:

  • “I think you’re definitely right”
  • “I understand where you’re coming from”

Or anything else to make them feel validated will get you a long way. Interestingly, when someone feels validated, they tend to be more willing to listen to information that challenges their beliefs.

Get them to explain their position

Ironically, when someone has to explain their beliefs they tend to become less confident about them. Yale University Psychologist F.C. Keil describes this phenomenon as “the illusion of explanatory depth”. This is because by trying to explain why they hold their beliefs, they confront the limitations of their own understanding.

Therefore, ask someone to explain their position with non-aggressive and exploratory questions. You’ll find their views are likely to soften and become more malleable.

Facts are not a panacea

It is tempting to look up a killer fact to finally sway your friend round to your way of thinking about the world. However, psychological studies have shown that winning an argument is much more emotional than logical.

Indeed, people tend to begin with their conclusion then pluck the reasons that support their belief out of thin air. Throwing facts at them is likely to throw them into fight-or-flight mode. Subsequently, you are more likely to close down their receptiveness to different viewpoints.

Confidence is key

Facts might not be the magic-bullet you hoped for, confidence just might be. A 2013 study found that people are much more likely to listen and be receptive to ideas presented confidently even if they are light on the facts.

Confidence is used as a proxy for expertise. As a result, the actual content of what is being said plays second fiddle to the way it is being said.

Seek to appear scientific

In modern societies, people perhaps value the opinions of scientists above all others with very little scepticism. Therefore, present your view in a scientific way. Then people are likely to be more persuaded by your arguments.

Why not go the whole hog and use a graph to explain your point? Then you’ll be well on the way to winning people round to your way of thinking.

The point to remember is, whatever way you can appear scientific will be of major benefit. Use data and references rather than anecdotes and logic over subjective positions.

Social proof

‘Social proof’ is where people seek to confirm that a certain behavior or belief is suitable. Psychologist Robert Cialdini defines social proof as copying the actions of others in order to reflect the correct behavior. We particularly copy those people we like.

“We like people who are similar to us. This fact seems to hold true whether the similarity is in the area of opinions, personality traits, background, or life-style.” Robert Cialdini

Examples of social proof include buying a product recommended by a family member. Liking a social media post because all your friends have liked it. Watching a programme because your partner loves it.

Re-frame the debate

People with different political beliefs tend to respond more positively to different arguments based on their own moral compasses.

The Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) suggests we hold 5 foundational beliefs. For instance, liberals give weight to arguments framed around fairness and protecting people from harm. On the other hand, conservatives value loyalty and authority most highly.

So, if you know someone’s political position, shaping your position accordingly is likely to lead to more successful results.

Want to Win an Argument? Use Confidence and Rely on Logical Thinking

When we disagree with others it is easy to get carried away. We use cheap personal attacks, look to cold facts as a magic remedy, or lose faith in our own position.

However, if we want to win an argument and change someone’s position, we are unlikely to be successful in using these methods. This is unless we take a confident, scientific, and tactical approach.

Treat people with respect. Have them explore how their ideas work themselves. Use gentle questioning, and re-frame the debate to suit the moral underpinnings of your target. Then you’ll stand the best chance of swaying people to your way of thinking. This is all you need to know in order to win an argument.



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