wikiHow to Argue

Three Parts:Arguing PositivelyArguing PersuasivelyArguing Effectively

Arguments don't have to be hurtful, but they can easily turn that way if you're not careful. Luckily, there are several techniques and tricks you can try, which will allow you to get your point across without turning the discussion into a full-on fight. The ability to argue effectively is actually a great skill to learn, and can come in handy in a wide variety of situations, giving you the confidence to stand up for yourself and what you believe in. Remember to pick your battles though - some things just aren't worth arguing over!

Part 1
Arguing Positively

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    Play fair. Odds are you know exactly how to push the other person's buttons, but it's important to resist if you want to have a civil argument. Resolve that no matter how upset he or she makes you, you will not say the one thing you know would push the argument over the edge.
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    Respect the other person. Respect what the other person has to say. An argument has to be two-sided; if you fail to hear the other side out, they will return the gesture and not listen to you. Refuting a person's opinion is fine, but refusing to hear it makes a debate pointless.
    • You should always be respectful when arguing with another person. Remember, that's what they are: another person. Treat them the way that you would want to be treated. Don't immediately dismiss their ideas just because they don't agree with you. Listen to them.
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    Attack ideas, not the person they're attached to. When you argue with someone, you should remember to only attack that person's ideas, not the person themselves. That means you shouldn't call the person stupid for thinking what they think, and you shouldn't devolve to attacks on their physical appearance either.
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    Admit when you are wrong. When you make a mistake, admit it. Admit that you misunderstood or were misinformed. Being wrong doesn't make you a lesser person but admitting you're wrong does make you the bigger person.
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    Apologize when appropriate. If you've hurt someone or your argument caused problems, you should apologize. Be the adult in the situation and take responsibility for your actions.
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    Be open to new ideas. The best way to argue positively is to be open to new ideas. You don't want to be wrong in an argument again, do you? Open yourself to the possibility of a better way of thinking or new, fascinating information.

Part 2
Arguing Persuasively

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    Make them feel smart. When you make people feel stupid, that makes them shut down and tends to quickly lead an argument nowhere. Make them feel smart and you'll have an easier time turning the argument in your favor.
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    Use evidence tailored to the argument and audience. Evidence from reliable sources that specifically supports and deals with what you're arguing about can be one of the easiest ways to win an argument. You should also tailor the type of evidence you use to what kind of person they are, using more logical or more emotional evidence based on what you think they'll respond to best.
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    Look for logical fallacies. Pointing out fallacies in their logic and politely explaining why that logic is bad is a good way to start to change someone's mind. Learning to recognize logical fallacies can be challenging but here are a few common ones:
    • Watch out for arguments with incorrectly assume that correlation means causation. For example, rates of autism diagnosis increased with the usage of cell phones. Therefore, autism is caused by cellphone usage. Post-hoc fallacies are similar, but are based on the idea that because A preceded B, B was caused by A.
    • An Argument from Silence fallacy is the idea that because there is no evidence for something, it must not exist. For example, God/germs/evolution/aliens do not exist because we have never physically witnessed them.
    • Non-Sequiturs are when the conclusion of an argument is unrelated to its premise. For example, the argument that we can't pay teachers more because policemen and firefighters do not make that much money.
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    Paint them as the hero or victim. People like to think of themselves as the main character in their life story. Keep them thinking this and charm them into changing their views by carefully tailoring how you talk about the issues.
    • For example, "I know you really, really want to help people. You're one of the most generous people that I know. But if you really wanted to help people, you wouldn't donate to a charity that misuses their money like that. Don't you want to be sure that your money is directly saving lives?"
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    Curate your language. When you argue, avoid language like "you" and "me". Instead, use words like "we". This brings your opponent into thinking of the two of you as a single unit with singular interests, rather than driving you apart.
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    Know when to stop. Sometimes, someone won't be able to change their mind right in front of you. Sometimes you have to just back off and their mind will change slowly over the course of time, as they think about what you said. Of course, sometimes you just have to persist too. It's a subtle art that you may just have to experiment with.
    • Generally, if someone seems like they're getting really upset, it's time to stop.
    • Close the argument with something like, "Okay, I can see that I can't change your mind but, please, just think about what I said."

Part 3
Arguing Effectively

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    Don't provoke an argument. Starting an argument, clearly provoking one, will get noticed by the people you argue with. They'll be much less likely to take you seriously because they know you just want to shout for awhile. Avoid looking like a troll if you want to have an effective argument.
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    Be real. Let your humanity and who you are as a person show through. This makes you more sympathetic and less angering to the people you argue against. Explain why you believe the thing that you believe and be willing to admit when an idea is your own, rather than using the "devil's advocate" cover up for an idea you know won't be popular.
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    Stay on topic. The fastest way to make an argument totally pointless is to let it get derailed. Stay on topic when you argue and when the other person derails, get them back on track. Solving a single disagreement is better than getting nowhere with 20 separate issues. Discuss one issue at a time, covering everything you want to say about it. When it's been settled or you've reached an impasse, move on to the next topic.
    • Don't allow subject changes. The other person might try to change the subject in order to cover up a mistake. Many people, when proven wrong in some area, will rather be dismissive of their mistake rather than acknowledging their error. Either leave the argument if the person refuses to acknowledge mistakes (i.e "It doesn't matter", "Whatever, that's my opinion.", etc), or insist they acknowledge their error.
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    Explain, explain, explain. Explain why you have the belief that you have, where you got your information from, and how you come to your conclusions. This can expose misunderstandings but it also forces your opponent to enter your head-space and follow your line of reasoning. It can be an effective way to win people over!
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    Understand and acknowledge their argument. When you argue with someone, acknowledge their argument and make sure that you actually understand what they're saying. Clarify with them if you have to.
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    Argue from a good premise. Make sure that you understand the basis of your argument before you argue. You should also make sure you agree with the premise of your opponent's argument. If you don't agree with the example they're using, or if you think it isn't representative or the idea is flawed in some way, say so before getting knee-deep in an argument. Letting your opponent work from a flawed premise makes it harder to show them the correct ideas.
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    Don't require the last word. Both of you feeling the need to have the last word in an argument can quickly lead a conversation into a Bottomless Anger Pit of Doom. Don't go into the Bottomless Anger Pit of Doom. You wouldn't like it there. Just "agree to disagree" and go cool down.
    • If you've been talking for a long time and neither one of you is budging, consider calling it a day. There are some arguments you can't win, no matter how good your argument is, if the other person isn't willing to rethink the problem. If you know when to quit, you might still be able to preserve the relationship.


  • An argument can be reasonable and without anger, as long as both parties are reasonable. A fight on the other hand, differs from an argument in the sense that an argument is meant to decide which hypothesis (point) is true (or truest), whereas a fight is meant simply to establish dominance over a person.
  • Be nice and respectful to the other person. We have different thoughts because we are humans.
  • Remember that people can be good friends although they have different opinions.
  • Don't make stuff up just tell the truth as it is.
  • Admit when you are wrong.
  • Sometimes one of you may need a few minutes alone to absorb what has been said. That is okay. If the other person asks for a few minutes alone, you should respect that and agree upon a time to continue the conversation. If you need a few minutes, you should be granted the same respect.


  • Sometimes it is best not to argue about politics or religion unless you are very close to the other person, and you know that they will respect your opinion. Most people cannot agree on these topics.
    • If you are arguing with a reasonable person, politics can be successfully and reasonably debated. However, it is more difficult to reach agreement on topics of religion because the perceived stakes of "winning" or "losing" the argument are much higher.

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Categories: Managing Arguments