Winning Arguments Through Science

I love a good argument.

For one, arguments are intellectually stimulating, firing up my dopamine receptors to capacity. And they are an opportunity for me to engage in one of my favorite activities–at work and at leisure–and that is:


My. Dope. Candy.

Which is why, along with potato chips and chocolate, I maintain that I could never become a casualty of the other kind of drugs.

And just like I approach a good kettle potato chip or gourmet chocolate, I approach argument making with the power of vengeance.

Winner take all.


Which feels good in the brain, but according to at least one work colleague, doesn’t translate into good feelings in the office. After one vigorous argument, one of work colleagues told me that it was one of her least favorite things about me. And that many people in my office felt the same.

I’ve heard it before.

For a while I will try being less aggressive and more compromising. That tends not to last long. For one thing, it’s a lifelong habit. While it really started developing in back in 6th grade when I learned about debate, I think it goes back further than that.

And honestly, most of the time, I’ve tended to brush off  as a price of being in business. And pretty much unavoidable, especially if you are an ambitious woman trying to rise up in the business world.  And if you are an ambitious black woman in business, it’s almost a given that men and dominant culture will see you as “uppidy.”

Win Arguments by Aligning with Your Enemy

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

According to this article @Fast Company on “winning arguments without making enemies,” the secret sauce is in how you frame your argument.

In the case of same-sex marriages, researchers found they could move the needle with conservatives by emphasizing how same-sex couples were “loyal, patriotic Americans” rather than Satan-spawn.

They framed their position to liberals as one of “fairness.” Which to me is like “duh.”

But okay.

Feinburg and Willer [the scientists conducting the research study] concluded that to win someone to your position, it’s best not to challenge their beliefs but to instead connect your own position to those beliefs (which, obviously, means empathizing with values you may not share–often the tricky part). Doing this can help others see the legitimacy of your position and reduce the perceptual gap between your viewpoint and theirs.

This is advice that definitely plan to take this advice to heart at work.

But when it comes to other areas where much is at stake, all I can say is–

democrats vs republicans

We’ll see.







Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s