Winning the argument

When I was at school, I used to take great joy in arguing with my friends. When I want to University I learned to argue more seriously – putting forward strong, logical arguments for the position I chose to take in an essay.

At work I have learned to put forward strong, considered arguments and I have also learned, sometimes, not to put forward strong, considered arguments.

After all this time though, I am still learning what it means to win an argument.

Winning the battle

I originally thought that getting other person to admit that they were wrong at that you were right was winning. I guess that is kind of true since they admit that you won. However it generally means that they other person actually disagrees with you again later. So I guess you could call this “winning the battle.”

Convincing others through the weight of a respectful argument

But what if I do honestly convince the other person that I am right (yay) and also maintain respect and psychological safety. They are happy and so am I, plus I won them over with the weight of my compelling evidence.

But then – was it my compelling evidence, or was it my oratory skills, or even that they were biased and I fluked on a message that appealed to them?

Learning something new

What if instead, I go in with one opinion, get confronted by new evidence and then change my mind?

I have lost the argument to someone else (in theory) but I have learned something new.

So who won then – the person who left with the same opinion and information that they started with or the one who gained something new to take away with them?

Arriving at a new point where neither expected to get to

My favourite arguments at school were kind of a mix of learning something new and convincing someone of something – but where we both ended up coming to a new, unexpected conclusion. It was fun and it boosted our egos. We all seemed smarter than we were before.

But then what if we successfully agreed on the wrong conclusion? It means we felt good at the conclusion of the argument and we built better relationships. It also meant that if something later proved we were wrong then we were in it together.

Conclusion, if there is one

So – what is winning an argument?

  • Convincing someone you are right?
  • Learning something new?
  • Reaching a shared, if surprising conclusion?
  • Both bring right in the end?

My feeling is that I win if I learn something new and/or end up with a shared view that allows for later learning. But that means we win if we are both actually wrong, which seems a little strange.

So I guess I am open to arguments here – when have you won an argument and when have you not?

One thought on “Winning the argument

  1. Perhaps there is a distinction to be drawn between ‘winning an argument’, i.e. the argument is a contest of views which is won or lost (or stalemated) depending on whose position prevails at the end, as opposed to ‘winning through argument’, where something is gained or ‘won’ by means of having the discussion?

    Liked by 1 person

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