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My 7 rules for arguing
My 7 rules for arguing.
The purpose of an argument ought to be your desire to share the truth with another person. Arguing because you want to look smart, make someone else feel dumb, or to “win” are horrible reasons to have an argument; no good will come of them.
Truth is beauty. Therefore, share the truth the same way you would share something beautiful with another person: with joy. Consider how excited we are to experience a work of art or nature’s beauty and how we want to show that to others. “You have to see this!” If you’re not joyful about the truth you are presenting, why would you expect someone else to be joyful about accepting it?
“Steel man” your opponent’s argument. Instead of arguing against a straw man, argue against what you consider to be the best possible version of their argument. Repeat this argument back to them to make sure you both fully agree on their position. In the process, you might discover you don’t have an argument at all.
Consider that you might be wrong. Try to consider any possible way that your opponent could be right. Remember, the goal is the truth. The truth doesn’t belong to you; you conform yourself to it. Be not only willing, but joyful to be shown that you are wrong about something, since that means you have just uncovered for yourself new beauty. See #2.
Imagine that you have been invited for dinner by your opponent and you are sitting with their spouse and young children around their table. Use the same language and tone with them that you would in that environment.
One argument at a time. No argument is productive if the topic keeps changing. If possible, you and your opponent should agree to a one sentence description of what you’re arguing about.
Assume the best possible interpretation of someone else’s words, not the worst. In the case when someone else’s words were meant maliciously, and you interpreted them otherwise, you have saved yourself from becoming hurt and upset. In the case when the words were not meant maliciously, you have saved yourself from judging them unjustly. In either case, you benefit.