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How To Argue.

Unleashing The Power Of Effective Argumentation.

By Grateful MafianaPublished about a month ago 4 min read
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How To Argue.
Photo by Afif Ramdhasuma on Unsplash

Our public conversations are in a state of crisis. They're stuck. It's people fully convinced of their views and shouting at each other from a distance. One of the reasons why we find it so difficult is because the skills of good argument have been atrophying for some time. We no longer view argument as something to be worked at, rather we see it as something we jump into out of instinct or defensiveness. The bad arguments that result decrease our confidence in what disagreements can do for us- so the quality of the conversation further degrades.

We need to restore confidence and faith in what disagreements can be, and to highlight its potential as a source for good as well as a source for ill. If intelligence is the ability to respond to any argument, wisdom lies in knowing which arguments to respond to, and which parts of an argument to respond to. Arguments are easy to start and hard to end because there are any number of differences between two people. And unless you are careful to say, "We're having this disagreement at this moment and not all the other disagreements we could be having," all of the differences between two people can start flooding in, and the argument becomes this unruly mass where any of the potential sources of conflict can come to the fore, and you're not making progress on any given one.

One of the frameworks developed in research in order to be more strategic in arguments is called the 'RISA Framework.' Before launching into a disagreement or challenging a claim, ask four things: First, whether the disagreement is real as opposed to a misunderstanding. Second, is to ask whether it's important enough to you to justify the disagreement. The third is to ask whether the topic of disagreement is specific enough for you to make some progress. And the fourth is to ask you and the other person engaged in the disagreement are aligned with your objectives for wanting to partake in that conversation.

By checking off on these four lists, you can't guarantee that a conversation is going to go well, but you may be able to give it the best possible chance of doing so. One of the limitations of the RISA Framework is that it is increasingly difficult to find the right kind of alignment in people's interests for wanting to engage in a disagreement. So, if you have two sides that simply want to hurt one another's feelings, that's some kind of alignment, but not the right kind that leads to productive conversations.

So, one place where you might be able to apply the RISA Framework is getting together with extended family for Thanksgiving or Christmas and knowing that some of the personal or political disagreements are going to bubble up to the surface. The RISA Framework provides a source of help in that situation: which is that every disagreement should start with a little bit of agreement, and that is often naming exactly what it is that you disagree about so that it doesn't bubble up into all the different areas in which you don't see eye-to-eye.

It allows us to almost make a contract with the other side: "This is what we're disagreeing about, and these are the reasons why we're engaging in that dispute." And one of the things that you can do with someone who tries to break those rules, to expand the debate into something it wasn't about, to change the topic to introduce new reasons for wanting to engage in the dispute, is just to remind ourselves of the agreement that we made and to bring the conversation back to those parameters.

Just as any number of the differences between two people can give rise to a disagreement, any number of things that people say within an argument, can be contested. There is a questions that is often asked to make that decision: which is, is this disagreement between the two sides necessary to resolve in order to make progress in the argument? And if it's not, is us challenging it going to help us make progress on the overall dispute?

One of the great lessons of argument is in order to be heard, you have to first listen. We're used to thinking about listening as an essentially passive act- we sit back in our chairs, and take it all in. It's a much more active process than that.

It gives us that moment where we get back on our toes and think maybe we missed something. It makes us imagine a world in which we're wrong. And all of that creates wiggle room through which something like humility or empathy might arise. This is not only applicable in personal disagreements, but in my view, more urgently needed than ever in our political disputes and ideological commitments.

Each of us are bigger than our political affiliations, than our religious commitments, than our ideological beliefs. It's in that setting that exercises like side-switch become most effective. It expands the scope of what we are able to talk about. It enlarges, improves and strengthens our ability to talk about contentious and difficult issues in humane, compassionate, and productive ways.

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About the Creator

Grateful Mafiana

Grateful is a captivating writer who enchants readers with her spellbinding tales, bits of advice and a lot more.My words weave a tapestry of emotions and leaves an indelible mark on the literary landscape. Prepare to be captivated.

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