How To Win An Argument
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How To Win An Argument

I’m about to tell you how to win an argument,
but before I break into psychology and debate tactics, why not try my personal winning strategy
that actually got me this job. [crying] Hey master debaters, I’m Jules for Dnews,
and… you’re wrong. I’m sorry about that, but you’re simply
incorrect. I challenge you to prove me otherwise. Argue your point, change my opinion. Chances are, you can’t. Not because I’m alone in a studio and screen
all my phone calls, but because, according to neuroscience, it’s really difficult to
win an argument. That is, if you define winning an argument
as “effective persuasion”. It turns out arguing and persuading are incompatible
goals for most people. Psychology professor Drew Weston headed up
a study in 2004 where researchers took supporters of George W. Bush and John Kerry and showed
them videos of their preferred candidate contradicting himself. 1 Simultaneously, the participant’s brains
were scanned in an MRI machine. When subjects were shown videos challenging
their beliefs, the part of the brain associated with logic and reason, the dorsolateral prefrontal
cortex, didn’t light up very much. However, the orbital frontal cortex, the anterior
cingulate and the posterior cingulate all lit up, and those areas are mainly associated
with emotion, conflict resolution, and moral judgement. Instead of processing whether or not their
beliefs were right, the subjects instead processed how the information made them feel, and how
to resolve that incongruence. As soon as they figured out how to justify
the incorrect information without challenging their own beliefs, so maybe something like
saying that the candidate accidentally misspoke, their brains released a bunch of dopamine
as a reward and made them feel great! Even when presented with evidence challenging
their beliefs, the subjects resolved their internal confusion without being persuaded
to change their minds.5 And we know this rings true even outside of the laboratory. According to research by another psychology
professor, John Gottman, roughly 69% of the things married couples argue about are never
resolved and are perpetual. Most of the time, arguing doesn’t solve
anything. But hey, you came here to learn how to kick
ass next time you argue, not learn about why arguing is messy and stupid. So how do you actually win an argument? Well, by not arguing1. Yeah, I know, it sounds like I’m promoting
the abstinence theory of debate, but hear me out. Arguing is a war; it has a winner and a loser,
and nobody wants to be a loser. Being wrong is okay as long as nobody knows
it, but if you have to admit that you’re wrong, AND change your behavior, you’re
probably going to look for any possible reason not to. The real trick is to make an argument look
as little like a war as possible. And you know who’s really good at that? FBI hostage negotiators. The FBI uses a method of persuasion known
as the Behavioral Change Stairway Model, and it actually only consists of five steps. Step One: Actively listen. Show your opponent that you are taking in
what they’re putting out. Step Two: Empathize. Let them know that not only do you understand
where they’re coming from, but you understand how they feel about their position. Don’t dismiss feelings or negate their experiences,
even if you disagree. Which you probably do. Keep all those adversarial feelings bottled
up for now. Step Three: Build a rapport. Once you’ve shown them that you understand
how they feel, now you want them to understand how you feel. Because if you both lay all the cards on the
table, then you can trust each other, or at the very least, they’ll trust you. Step Four: Influence. This is the first place where you’re going
to actually make your point after building a strong foundation of empathy and trust. If you’re both listening, then you can start
problem solving with them, not against them. And finally, Step Five, which is less of a
step and more of a conclusion: they change9. For the FBI this means they surrender, but
for you, it might mean you get to stay out past curfew, or get the wallpaper you like,
or eat 200 hot dogs in an hour, whatever floats your boat. Pretty much all of those self-help books about
arguing follow these same basic steps, because in the end, the thing we most want to do when
someone tells us we’re wrong, is almost always the exactly wrong thing to do. We can’t do episodes like this without our
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music to life indoors and out. Check it out at So now you know how to win an argument, congratulations! Too bad Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump didn’t
watch this video before their debate, but do debates even matter in the first place? Watch me talk about whether or not they can
actually affect the election in this video. But it is impossible for some people to see eye to
eye? Are conservative and liberal brains actually
different? Find out in this video
by Tara. So what are some other tips and tricks you
can use to win an argument? Let us know down below in the comments and
don’t forget to liking and subscribing for more DNews everyday.


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