We argue because we disagree. And that’s OK. A world where everyone agreed on 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?”
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.