Category Archives: Argument

An Excerpt: Original Sin

Joy of Argument Albert NavarraDON’T FALL FOR an argument that relies solely on the origin of something and ignores the current reality. How something started is not always relevant to what it is today. Easter may have started as a pagan spring festival, but does that undermine its legitimacy today? Easter is now celebrated by Christians as the resurrection of Jesus Christ and is typically the most well-attended service of the year. Australia was originally populated by aboriginal people—hunters and gatherers—and then settled by the British through the transportation of large numbers of male and female prisoners. So is Australia uncivilized? Hardly. Today Australia has one of the world’s largest economies, and life expectancy in Australia is also among the highest in the world.


The previous excerpt is quoted from The Joy of Argument, by Albert Navarra.

As we approach the holiday season, it’s always a popular time to debate the origins of what we’re celebrating.  Is Thanksgiving a celebration of the oppression of millions of Native Americans, or a celebration of thankfulness and the American story? Is Christmas a celebration of the birth of Jesus, a secular celebration of modern goodwill among men (ho ho ho!), or a bastardization of the pagan festival of Saturnalia?

These are all good questions, worthy of civil discourse.

The origins of a holiday aren’t necessarily what we celebrate today. However, the origins can provide a jumping-off point for needed discussion and sometimes protest.  When protest of an origin is worthwhile, remain civil.  The person joyfully celebrating the holiday at your dinner table likely isn’t celebrating the atrocities you’ve associated with the occasion.

Is there room to joyfully celebrate with the people we love, while still opening the door for thoughtful discussion?

Argument is beautiful and necessary to move our society forward.  Learn how to do it well, to change hearts and minds, by purchasing The Joy of Argument on Amazon here.

Say Things That Matter

The following is an excerpt from The Joy of Argument. If this passage gets you thinking Joy of Argument Albert Navarraabout how you can more effectively use argument in day-to-day life, check out the complete book in paperback or e-book format here. 


To realize the joy of argument and all the wonderful things it can bring, you need to think about and say things that matter. Don’t just say things because it feels good to say them. Say things because they are relevant and help prove your point.

Start by arguing relevant facts. And spend most of your time on the most relevant facts. A fact is relevant if it tends to prove your point; these are the facts you emphasize when you are proving a point. For example, let’s say you argue that there is an economic recession. Relevant facts would be decreased income levels, decreased gross domestic product (GDP), decreased consumer spending, and increased unemployment. These facts, if true, would tend to prove your point.

But before you declare victory, keep in mind that a fact is also relevant if it tends to disprove your point; these are the facts your opponent emphasizes when he tries to prove you wrong. Increased income levels, increased gross domestic product, increased consumer spending, and decreased unemployment, if true, would tend to disprove your point. These facts make up the “other side of the coin,” and you should be aware of them if they are true.

So it’s important to identify the relevant facts in an argument. But it’s not enough to simply argue relevant facts in an argument. To persuade, you need to argue the most relevant facts. Let’s say you and a friend are arguing about whether there is an economic recession. Your friend says, “I just came back from Dubai. The business-class lounge was packed. The plane was completely full. Where’s the recession? I don’t see any recession!” Is it relevant that the business lounge in Dubai International Airport is full? Sure, a busy airport is a sign of economic activity. But is this the most important fact as to whether there is a recession? Probably not. First, airports tend to attract people with money, so an airport is not always the best barometer of general economic conditions. Second, airlines have been running their planes fuller in recent years because of consolidations, partnerships, elimination of unprofitable routes, technology, and fuel costs. And many seats are taken by off-duty airline staff and passengers using frequent-flier miles. These factors don’t tend to indicate the end of a recession. So the most relevant facts in this argument are probably broader economic statistics–for example, income levels, unemployment, GDP, and consumer spending (a tiny fraction of which would be found in the business lounge).

The most common flaw in bad arguments is saying stuff that is not relevant. Most bad reasoning comes down to saying things that don’t prove, or even tend to prove, the point. Say things that matter, and especially the things that matter most, and you stand a much better chance of persuading.

Ask Why

We argue because we disagree. And that’s OK. A world where everyone agreed ondde069018eb404ad120e7d1a47a98d07 everything would be unproductive, unoriginal and boring.

When you enter into an argument with someone it may be apparent at first where your opinions differ. But after an argument has gone on for some time, it’s easy to lose track of what points have been conceded, and where dissension still remains.

If you’ve argued with a person for a while, and he or she still doesn’t agree with you, you need to know why. So if you don’t already know, ask. That way you can focus on points that will persuade, rather than waste time and effort on points the other person already agrees on or doesn’t care about.

There might be only one reason the other person doesn’t yet agree, or there may be several. These reasons may be purely emotional, completely logical, or both. So ask, “Why do you disagree?” If you want to be subtler, you can rephrase. “Are there any objections to…” “Are there any obstacles to…”

Simple questions like these force the person with whom you are arguing to stop and reconsider his or her feelings about the topic at hand, and reevaluate what exactly it is you’re arguing about. This is a useful tool when the argument seems to be getting off track, or you begin to feel you’re talking each other in circles, unable to move on from a particular point.

Sometimes the other person is not completely honest about why they disagree with you. If you think some prodding will bring it out, ask. “Are there any other issues that you’re thinking about?” “Do you have any other concerns that we should consider?” “Am I covering everything that matters to you?”

The Key

Find out exactly what the hang-up is so you can address it.


Portions of this blog post were excerpted from The Joy of Argument by Albert Navarra. If you’d like more information on how to hone your communication skills through argument, check out The Joy of Argument in paperback and e-book formats here.

Excerpt: Don’t Jump on the Bandwagon

The following is an excerpt from The Joy of Argument. If this passage gets you thinking Joy of Argument Albert Navarraabout how you can more effectively use argument in day-to-day life, check out the complete book in paperback or e-book format here. 


Relying on public opinion is not always the most reliable way to judge something. Sometimes you really can’t tell unless you try it, and judge for yourself.

A recent poll showed that 62% of Americans think the government should cut spending to help the economy. So is that all we need to know? Just start cutting? Whether spending cuts (“austerity measures”) will help or hurt the economy depends on many factors, for example, the effects on the poor and middle class, government’s ability to pay its debt liabilities, investors’ trust in a government’s ability to pay its debts, effects on interest rates, and even psychological factors. It’s more complicated than a public opinion poll.

And public opinion changes. Another recent poll showed that 87% of Americans favor marriage between blacks and whites. In 1958 it was 4%.

Public opinion does have a certain allure. It can feel a little uncomfortable to hold a minority viewpoint. Politicians play on this emotion by arguing, “most people agree that…” or “most people don’t support…” But sometimes the minority is right!

Also, public opinion polls can seem authoritative because they involve statistics and numbers. But remember what your parents used to say: “If all your friends jump off a cliff, are you going to jump too?”

Just because a lot of people believe something, or are doing something, doesn’t prove it’s a good idea.

The Key

Don’t jump on the bandwagon just because a lot of other people are.

Lack of Proof

If you can’t find your keys, and you search your entire car, and you don’t find your keys in your car, it’s okay to say your keys are not in your car. You are making an argument based on lack of evidence. This argument is valid because you searched the entire car.

If you argue that aliens do not exist because you have never seen evidence of extraterrestrials, you are also making an argument based on lack of evidence. But this argument is not as strong, because you have not searched the entire universe for evidence of aliens. In fact, you probably have not even searched a significant portion of the universe. So the lack of proof of extraterrestrials does not necessarily prove that extraterrestrials don’t exist. Maybe they do exist; you just haven’t looked in the right places!

The Joy of Argument, “Lack of Proof” pg. 98

These examples illustrate how carefully you must examine lack of proof in an argument. On first glance a lack of proof may indicate that something does not exist. But this is only a valid conclusion if all possible sources of proof have been explored.

Some arguments have a conclusion that provides certainty, while others have a conclusion that only provides a probability. Be careful when arguing about lack of proof. What may at first appear to be a strong defense, could easily end up to be an assumption based on lack of evidence.

A Threat is Not an Argument

In the founding days of this country using a threat to win an argument might’ve ended in a the-petticoat-duellistsduel. “I’m going to kill you,” wasn’t a flippant way of saying, “I’m really mad and I vehemently disagree with your point of view.” It was a statement of actual intent.

“Sword or pistol?”

“Both!”

If this were the case today, a third of the people in comment sections would be counting off paces. Because of the ease of anonymity in the age of social media, discussions devolve quickly into petty digital duels, each participant looking to come up with the final, most damaging, insult.

A sound argument is based on facts and logic, not fear. A person with a strong argument has no need to insult the other person, because they have plenty of ammunition to attack the argument itself.

So how to combat this culture of irrational behavior?

You can’t argue, productively, with a person who is irrational. You can only fight with them, and there’s no joy in that. If the person isn’t receptive to things like facts and reason, leave it alone. The person might be going through a difficult time and is just too emotional at the moment to have a rational discussion.

If you find yourself tempted to attack your opponent in the heat of an argument, resist. Turn your thoughts back to your argument. If the person is nor aware of important facts, don’t insult their intelligence–explain the facts to them without being condescending. Focus on the point you want to make, and the reasons or facts that support your point.

Keep your cool, know when to walk away, and when to refocus your argument to avoid emotional pitfalls.

Interested in more argument tips like this one? Check out The Joy of Argument here. It’s chock full of information you’ll need before and after every discussion. 

Debate What Matters, Skip the Rest

Before the era of the internet people argued at dinner parties. They argued at work and they argued while they were getting ready for bed. And while someone could shout after you as you walked away, you could pretty easily avoid debate just by being alone.

Today, we’re connected to argument at all times. Smartphones, television, and better modes of transportation put us in touch with people outside our immediate circles more than ever before. These advancements expose us to worldviews, cultures and opinions that are vastly different from our own. And that’s a good thing. The more we learn about other people–even if it’s only to discover we don’t understand them–the more we grow as individuals.

But this constant connectivity can be exhausting. No matter what your opinion, no matter how trivial the topic at hand may seem, there’s almost always going to be a dissenter in the crowd, grumping from his or her armchair.

Grump

 

 

 

 

 

Argument is a valuable tool, but it’s OK to take a break from debate. Turn off your notifications. Don’t respond to every reply. Disallow comments. Save your energy for the arguments that really matter.

Goodreads Giveaway

Free book alert!

Enter our Goodreads giveaway for a chance to win one of five paperback copies of The Joy of Argument. In a world where opinions are more often shouted than discussed, The Joy of Argument teaches you how to become a skilled participant in the art of intelligent discourse. Learn how to craft a better argument to get more of what you want and less of what you don’t–learn the joy of argument.

Enter to win your copy here.

This compact guide to argument was written by an expert but designed for the layman. Featuring easily digestible, concise sections, The Joy of Argument covers such topics as: Lack of Proof, What do the Numbers Prove?, Nerves, and Hot Words.

This giveaway will close on April 8, 2017 and is free to enter. The regular price of the book is $14.95.

Good luck in the giveaway and happy reading!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Joy of Argument by Albert Navarra

The Joy of Argument

by Albert Navarra

Giveaway ends April 08, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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Conquer Your Fear, State Your Opinions

You’ve probably heard that public speaking is feared more than death. But this doesn’t mean that all of those people have nothing they want to say.

If you’ve found yourself silently disagreeing with the conversation around the water cooler at work, or seething over the comment section of news articles without saying anything, you’re not alone. Stop unloading your opinions to your significant other at the end of the day.

Intelligent discussion, argument, discourse—it is possible to exchange differing ideas without a stressful, hostile outcome. To get your opinions across in a world of CAPS LOCK shouting matches and hurt feelings you need the power of the skill of argument.

With the proper education you can refute misleading data, shut down personal attacks, ask the right questions and conquer your nerves.

Some people are born with preternatural confidence, even if they’re not preternaturally competent. They’re not nervous making an argument anywhere, anytime. Good for them. But most people will fall somewhere on the spectrum of nervousness between butterflies and crippling self-doubt. Don’t let this stop you from expressing what you have to say through argument.

Better solutions are implemented when everyone feels free to offer their opinions for vigorous and open discussion and debate. What you know, your specific experiences and ideas, are unique and important. Don’t let fear keep you from joining an argument.

If you’re interested in learning how to make your voice heard, check out The Joy of Argument here. Written for the layperson by an experienced attorney, this easy-to-read guide to argument will educate you in the art of intelligent debate.

Argument 101

No matter what side of the political spectrum you fall on, it’s unlikely that you can escape argument. In a time where discussions dissolve into shouting matches IN ALL CAPS in comment sections, and “facts” are hotly contested on all sides, knowing how to effectively craft an argument can mean the difference between participating in intelligent debate, or walking away frustrated.

As you scroll through your newsfeed, here are a few tips from The Joy of Argument to help as you argue your way through the day. Feel free to share with anyone you encounter who could use a brush-up on his or her argument skills.

  1. Ignore Things That Don’t Matter. Trying to persuade by attacking the other person personally, by appealing to what “most” other people think, or by instilling fear are a few of many examples of irrelevancy. Discussing things that are irrelevant to an argument is the same as changing the subject of the argument. Don’t be distracted, discouraged, or persuaded by the infinite number of things that simply don’t matter. 
  2. Are the Numbers Accurate? Statistics can be very persuasive because they’re measurable. They create a sense of objectivity because they’re based on math. Two plus two equals four. Who can argue with that? So people cite numbers for everything you can imagine. But sometimes people cite numbers that are not accurate. Or it’s unclear exactly what the numbers measure. Dig to find out what the number really measures, and if it’s reasonably accurate. 
  3. Answer the Question! If you ask a relevant question you deserve a relevant answer. But you won’t always get one. You might get an answer, perhaps a very long answer, and it may sound impressive, spoken with great passion and sincerity. It just won’t answer your question. So listen carefully, and make sure you get a relevant answer to your question–not a runaround, another question as an answer, or a claim of misunderstanding.
  4. Don’t Put on Blinders. “I don’t care what you say. I’m not going to change my mind.” Sometimes people get so caught up in their argument that they ignore any new facts, evidence, or reasons that go against their arguments. At this point, your goal is not so much to seek agreement; you just want to know if the other person is rational and open-minded. If the person says there is no fact, evidence or reason that would change his or her mind, give up. When a person’s mind is made up you might as well move on to something else. But in your own arguments, remember–don’t ignore new information; at least consider it.
  5. Two-Second Logic Test. Here’s a quick, simple and often effective test. Someone makes an argument that something is good or bad. For example, “Homosexuality should be illegal because it is unnatural.” Replace the key term, “homosexuality,” with something the other person accepts should be legal, like anesthesia. “So would you argue that anesthesia should be illegal, because it is unnatural?” You immediately undercut the heart of the argument that something should be illegal solely because it is unnatural.

These five tips were taken from excerpts of The Joy of Argument by Albert Navarra. If you’d like to explore the book in its entirety, find it in paperback and e-book form on Amazon by clicking here.