Making arguments

I may be wrong or it may be it is an experience that others don’t share, but the one thing I have done more of, both when I was young and now that I am old, but less so in the intervening years, and that is to ARGUE, although I suspect I am of a disposition that is prone to get into arguments. Maybe one reason for this, besides liking a good argument, is I have more time on my hands and less to lose.

Having just had an argument with one young person (which we thankfully ended on amicable terms – something usually desirable but sometimes unavoidable when having an argument), who is close to me, who I see as being a bit like me when I was his age, with brash and know it all tendencies, on a deep philosophical matter, it is tempting to compare my approach to arguing now to when I was young and reflect on what if anything I have learned in the in-between years. It is easy to think I do better in the arguing stakes now compared with then, having learned by experience, but I am not so sure, since I still make the same old mistakes. Yet even though I still fall short of my own high standards on this matter, there are tips to arguing effectively that I feel are worth passing on…


  1. While one of the goals of arguing is to win, there can be other more important considerations, like winning an argument but losing a friend, or picking the wrong time and place to argue.
  2. We are lucky (in the UK) insofar we can usually make whatever point we want without untoward comeback, but that is not always the case, and certainly not in less free societies, so be wise.
  3. When having an argument, the “true, necessary and kind” principle is important. What we say needs to be true and necessary, and it should be said without malevolence.
  4. We argue because we may feel strongly about something and want our argument to be accepted by the people that matter, yet none of this is guarantee life around us will change for the better.
  5. Sometimes, we have to make our argument time and time again, and to different audiences, but then we need to weigh if our expending the effort is worth it or if it is our calling to argue.
  6. With some we argue with, it is like casting pearls before swine. It may be better to avoid those who argue for the sake of it, merely to score points or not interested in what those who disagree think.
  7. We owe it to ourselves; to the people we are facing and trying to represent, to be fully cognizant with the facts as is possible. We have been given two ears and one mouth for a good reason.
  8. We should try to respect one’s adversary, even if they are wrong or we don’t like them. It is well to remember there are many perspectives to most subjects, and ours may not be wholly correct.
  9. It is better NOT to raise our voice, lose our tempers, bring in irrelevances, show irritation, humiliate others, try to appear too smart etc., and we may win our argument by adopting that stance.
  10. Often arguments get hijacked and red herrings are introduced. While we should not be too impatient when this happens or be the guilty party, we do well to focus on main points that are relevant.
  11. We should be clear and succinct when making an argument; using apt examples. Our points should be well made and not be labored. We should graciously concede if it is shown that we are wrong.
  12. We may think we are doing a good thing by arguing a point we feel strongly about, but sometimes actions speak louder than words and we should first look to make a difference.

Arguing can be fun and it can be a means of getting closer to the truth. It can also be taxing and frustrating, especially if it is not going anywhere. I have come to find there are some who particularly enjoy arguing and/or are good at it, and some not. I have friends who avoid arguing but I am not like that – we are all different. I believe it is a good thing to evaluate ideas, seek solutions, challenge authority, counter injustice, question the status quo, etc. Making arguments can be an important means to do this and one whereby we can get across what we think (as well as have our own views challenged). It may be a pre-requisite to raising the awareness of others about something we care about or getting things done. Many arguments, if we are honest, are not as important as we might think, and maybe are best avoided. Always we need to weigh making arguments with doing what needs doing. When it comes to getting into arguments, these points I try to put into practice, even though my past record practicing what I preach has a lot to be desired.


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