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How to Stay on Top of an Argument

How to Stay on Top In an Argument

How to Stay on Top In an Argument
Woman arguing. Photo.
Some useful words and expressions
  • Make an Argument
  • Establish a claim
  • A persuasive argument
  • Clear examples
  • Logical reasoning
  • Support the claims
  • A sound argument
  • Counter-arguments
  • A fallacious argument
  • A strong conclusion
  • Unsound arguments


1. Sit in pairs and discuss one or more of the statements below. Decide who agrees with the statements and who disagrees. Act out a discussion trying to persuade the other that you are right.

  • Women are better at arguing than men.
  • Sports interest people who live boring lives.
  • Football is all about money these days. It is no fun anymore.
  • People who choose to climb dangerous mountains, cannot expect others to risk their lives rescuing them.
  • We only agree on environmental measures that do not affect our everyday life in a negative way.
  • Exposure to media violence makes people behave more violently in everyday life.
  • Pretty people get more positive attention. Therefore plastic surgery should be a human right.
  • An average teen is more concerned with shopping than with world peace.
  • We don’t care about poor people. If we did we would not spend billions on sweets, make-up and hair gel.
  • These discussion topics are stupid.

2. Afterwards, discuss who came up with the best arguments. Also discuss what a good argument is.

Strategies of Discussion

Winning a discussion may involve tricky and complex strategies of flattery, insults and threats. When politicians – who are professional word wrestlers – get head on in TV debates, they have been practicing for years in co-operation with experts on mass communication and marketing strategists. They are rarely at a loss for words after practicing techniques of avoiding tricky questions their whole career. However, they cannot appear inhuman either, and some admission of guilt is acceptable even in these circles. Sometimes accepting weakness or blame may give the politician the upper hand, as his or her credibility increases in the long run.

Discussions take place around the kitchen table as well as in front of the TV camera; they also take place in the form of ‘letters to the editor’ in newspapers. Providing a public arena for debate is, after all, one of the key functions of the media. The techniques are the same as those of the professional politicians – though polished and carried out at various levels of proficiency.

Context is Contents

In the following we will give you examples of some discussion techniques. But what works for some may not work for others. It depends on a mixture of your personality, background and oratory skills. Study the following situations. They can all be interpreted differently.

  • A spokesperson for a music festival claims that everything is nice and tidy, while, in fact, conditions are dirty and unorganized. The spokesperson is motivated by trying to get as many paying spectators as possible.
  • A teenager claims a sudden stomach ache before heading off to a lengthy dinner with the family. There is a great film on TV in an hour.
  • An immigrant criticizes her own ethnic group for accepting arranged marriages. She is perceived as a brave person. A person outside the group, making the same claim, gets labeled a racist.
  • A politician on a re-election campaign promises to get tough on crime.

What Did You Say?

Communication is a complex process. What you hear depends on the attitudes of the one listening as well as those of the one speaking. Actually, two people listening to the same argument being made may experience it very differently. If you want to be successful at building an argument, you will have to analyze the attitudes of your listeners and what they think of you while formulating a persuasive argument directed at hearts and minds.

Continue with 'Tips on Winning an Argument' in the link collection.


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