Wednesday, August 21, 2013
How to win arguments - tactics
(I am less confident in debate because there you don't have time to prepare a snappy comeback)
Here is some tactical advice:
1 - Don't let them have the last word.
2 - Push them into an unsustainable assertion and then, politely, ask them to retract. Keep asking. The sort of people I argue against never will. This applies particularly to eco-fascists who will never recognise even the slightest and most unimportant, to their argument, error. I assume this is because they know their façade is fragile.
3 - Remember it is the audience not the opponent you are trying to persuade. An opponent who will admit to being half persuaded is a formidable opponent and an admirable person.
4 - Don't let them change the subject "Your are trying to change the subject but we have to get the basics right first"
5 - Start from where you really stand. Don't start from a "moderate" compromise position. You will just be asked to compromise again until you have given away everything. This does not mean never compromise - politics is the art of compromising so that everybody gets some of what they want and nobody gets killed. But to compromise properly you first need to know what you really want.
6 - Know your facts and be sincere. Nothing beats that combination.
7 - See where their argument is going and ask a simple question that undermines it. "Mr Cameron, if world growth is 5% why is growth of any sort so difficult here?"
8 - Have a list of facts to throw into the debate.
9 - When you have the evidence use the evidence, when you have the law use the law, when you have neither pound the table. This is an old lawyer's maxim. I don't like it much but you don't have to look far to see it works.
10 - Use their first name if you are going to call them, by circumlocution, a liar (it gives the impression that "come on we both now you are a lying turd, stop pretending). If I am going to call somebody a liar in debate, or worse, I would rather do it by circumlocution. It is more difficult to take offence and because it takes longer actually sinks in deeper.
11 - When the opponent has been caught in a lie, politely ask them to retract (usually retract rather than apologise)(extension of #2). They still won't.
12 - If they won't say "In that case I am forced to recognise that claim must represent the highest standard of honesty to which your (in group rather than the individual) aspires but factually it does seem to be a lie, and an obvious and silly one at that because........"
13 - When facing multiple opponents see where they disagree and exploit it.
14 - Ask a question, when they don't answer say so. An extension of 4.