Telling someone they’re wrong is rarely going to change their mind. It won’t let them save face and only make them upset. Confrontations and arguments rarely work.
We often start them since loudly asserting authority and knowledge makes us feel important, but it makes the other feel small and wounded. Most times arguments end with the backfire effect, with both parties even more convinced they were right. Even if you win, the other person will still hate you.
The only way to win arguments is to avoid them, whatever it takes.
Showing complete agreement stops the opponent in their tracks. Even if they disagree, you can move the topic towards them seeing positive parts of your position too.
Here are steps to keep a disagreement from becoming an argument.
- Welcome the disagreement. Be thankful the other is showing you new points to think of, as it may be a chance to learn more.
- Distrust your first impression. Stay calm and avoid becoming defensive.
- Control your temper. Big people aren’t angered by small things.
- Listen first. Let them talk and finish talking first.
- Find areas of agreement. Focus on those first.
- Be honest and look for places to admit error. Apologize for them, since it helps relax the other person.
- Promise to think over the other person’s ideas, since they may be right.
- Thank the other for their interest. They at least share the same interest and want to help, which could lead to them being friends.
- Give both people time to think. Suggest meeting again another day when all the facts have been seen. Ask yourself hard questions about how right your opponent may be and how you and the other will react further.
Remember, two people yelling is no communication, only bad noises.
Show Respect for Others’ Opinions
Never say “you’re wrong.” Saying this in any way, through words or gestures, is a direct insult and makes them dig into their views more. No logic will change their minds.
Saying you’re going to correct someone’s views is telling them you’re smarter and challenging them to a verbal battle. So if you want to prove anything, don’t communicate it.
You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him to find it within himself.
If someone says something you think is wrong, a great phrase to open with is “I may be wrong. I frequently am. Let’s examine the facts.” It’s disarming and leads to a much more reasonable discussion by showing respect and leaving it open for the other to admit they’re wrong. All this comes from admitting you may be wrong.
Most people are prejudiced and biased, and wounds to our pride harden our hearts to any persuasion, logic be damned. We may admit wrongdoing to ourselves and others if handled tactfully, but never if someone is trying to force it on us.
A good general rule is avoiding all statements that directly contradict what others say, or express absolute certainty.
When talking with others, a good approach is asking others’ opinions and work in your viewpoints carefully as you do so. This makes it easier for them to accept your perspective when you present it.
- Ask questions in a friendly, cooperative way
- Insist continually they’re right
- Occasionally remark with your ideas to slowly ease them to your way of thinking
- Know it’s a gradual process
If You’re Wrong, Admit it Fast and Empathetically
Admit wrongdoing quickly, openly, and enthusiastically. Most times we’re going to be rebuked anyway, and it’s easier to hear it from ourselves than others.
This appeals to someone’s desire to be important since it puts them in a position of power and lets them show mercy. It also takes away their chance to say the same things about you, and in place will often be a forgiving attitude.
Begin Disagreements in a Friendly Way
People don’t want to change their minds in disagreements, but approaching it in a gentle and friendly way may lead them to do so. Friendliness, sympathy, and appreciation beget more of all three.
A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.
Don’t use language that puts lots of force or pressure on the other side. Ask them to respectfully consider your views and mention how you trust them to act intelligently considering the facts.
Get Others Saying “Yes, Yes” Right Away
When discussing, start by emphasizing points you agree on. Bringing up a few points you know the person will say “yes” to gets their minds moving in a positive, agreeable direction that gathers momentum. It takes more work to say “no” afterward since they’re primed to keep saying “yes.”
This approach requires empathy and understanding since otherwise, you won’t know what to say to them that they’ll be saying “yes” to. At the same time, it also lets you bring the person to your understanding, so empathy goes both ways.
Let Others Do Lots of Talking
Let others talk themselves out if they have a lot to say. Ask questions, listen with patience and an open mind, be sincere in your interest, and encourage them to fully express themselves. Sometimes people will talk themselves out of negative thoughts and arguments if we simply let them.
To often we give orders and try to assert control when we should be simply listening. Again, it comes back to a feeling of importance.
If you want enemies, excel your friends. If you want friends, let your friends excel you.
If you want to get someone talking, good topics to bring up (after doing some research for specifics) include:
- Reminisce about past or present struggles they overcame
- Accomplishments they’re proud of
Talking about your achievements is fine too. But only aim to do so when asked.
Let Others Feel an Idea is Theirs
Forcing your ideas on others rarely works. Offering suggestions that lead to them, and letting others think their way to that conclusion, works much better. No one wants to be sold on something, but they love to buy things of their own accord.
A simple and useful way to do this is taking in the ideas of others as part of your process. If the person feels part of the process behind making something, they feel part of it is theirs and therefore aren’t being “sold” on it.
Or simply invite the person to learn more without pushing a hard sales pitch on them. In the process of learning more, they may wind up selling themselves.
Another is finding a pre-existing point of any kind between your idea and the person and using that as a bridge when pitching it to them. It could be something of common interest, such as seeing someone is interested in the country’s founding and using that when pitching a vacation to such landmark destinations like Independence Hall.
Casually planting an idea, just enough to interest the person, gets them thinking about it on their account. If the person ruminates on it long enough to get the same or similar idea, resist the urge to take credit for it. The result is the same.
Try to Honestly Feel Things from Another Person’s Point of View
Others may be wrong. It’s easy to condemn them, it’s tough but wise to try and understand them. All people have reasons for acting the way they do, as that reason is to figure out their actions or even their personality. Honestly put yourself in their place. Knowing the cause makes us hate the effect less.
You have a keen interest in your affairs and only a mild concern for the rest. Realize everyone feels this same way. Consider the others’ ideas and feelings as important as your own. Close your eyes and ask yourself why the other person wants to do what they’re doing.
A more empathetic approach is less harsh and helps others save face. It takes more time but gets better results with less friction. It’s worth taking the extra time to build an understanding so you can know how someone would answer your questions.
Be Sympathetic to Another’s Ideas and Desires
Don’t blame others for feeling the way they do. Acknowledge if you were in their shoes, you’d feel the same way. 3/4 of the people you meet want sympathy and will love you for giving it.
Even in the face of hostility, sympathy towards others’ feelings (with an apology) can turn it into friendliness.
For someone you wish to persuade, seeing and sympathizing with their desires makes it easier to build a bridge between your goals. Even if you want to persuade someone to do something they don’t want to, showing sympathy for their reasons against it and acknowledge how difficult it would help a lot when you tell them the benefits.
Appeal to the Nobler Motives
All people have high regard for themselves and like to see their actions bolster this fine and unselfish self-image.
People usually have two reasons for doing something: a noble-sounding one and a real one. People will think of the real reasons, but like to think of and hear the noble one. So appeal to the noble one.
For example, someone threatening to leave a contract can be persuaded to stay in by appealing to the noble motive of “being a person of their word” instead of a financial or legal reason. The former will be seen as “the only honorable thing to do.” It can be any noble motive like love for motherhood or not harming children.
This won’t always work on all people, but for anyone not getting the desired results, it’s always worth a try.
Dramatize Your Ideas
If you want to communicate the truth with more power, make it vivid, interesting, and dramatic, as you’d see in a movie or by a showman.
This is done all the time, in many different ways, by advertisements. They’re an endless source of inspiration. For example, drive home how people are wasting money by throwing pennies or other actual money on the floor.
Getting someone to do a boring task is hard. Making the task more exciting or dramatic in some way makes it much easier.
Graphs and data are boring. Visual props that drive the message home in a different way persuade.
Throw Down a Challenge
When the rest fails, motivate people by stimulating competition and tapping into the desire to excel (again, importance). Give them the challenge to test themselves against and it’ll push them forward harder than they went before.
If someone knows it’ll take a strong person to overcome a task, they’ll likely take up the task to prove their strength and importance. It’s the self-expression, proving their worth, and interest in the work that makes this strategy work.