My college roommate drove me crazy when we’d argue. His point of view was always so clear and concise that by the end, I’d be exasperated. Back then, I was too stubborn to admit when he won an argument (and I’m only slightly less stubborn now). I’d walk away upset, wishing I knew how to argue better. The day after a particular argument—which he won as usual—we discussed the subject with another guy. I sat back waiting for my roommate to give the arguments he had given the day before. Except he didn’t. He replicated my arguments. I said, “That’s what I said to you yesterday!” He said, “I know. You made a good point.”
I learned that day that winning an argument is not the same as being right. I’m not saying I was right and my roommate was wrong—far from it. Most of us are convinced we are right when we argue, but are we? How can you tell? Do you want to know how to argue better? Well, here are 5 ways to know you’re right in an argument.
1. You don’t feel threatened.
Do you get angry when you’re in an argument? Feeling hurt and frustrated if you have been insulted is one thing. However, most people get angry in an argument because they feel threatened about being proven wrong or feel insecure about their own level of intelligence. Ultimately, an argument shouldn’t be about winning or losing. It shouldn’t even be about who is smarter. The purpose of an argument is to find the truth. And we shouldn’t let pride blind us to what we’re trying to find. If you aren’t feeling threatened, it’s a sign that you’re actually seeking truth.
2. You assume the holes in your own argument.
At best, you don’t have all the information. You have a piece of the picture and it may even be the most important piece, but the person who disagrees with you has different information. You need those missing pieces to get closer to the full scope of the issue. When you assume this from the beginning, you are more likely to be open to the truth rather than defending yourself.
3. You assume validity in the opposing perspective.
There are probably good reasons you believe what you believe and you probably want people to respect that. So be the first to give that courtesy. Assume that the other person’s experiences and information have given them valid reasons to form their conclusions. It doesn’t mean that they are right, but don’t dismiss them simply because they disagree with you. If you do, you’ll be on the wrong side of the argument.Do your best to understand an opposing position as well as you understand your own.
4. You have put in the work.
Do you have a full picture of the other person’s argument, worldview, and perspective? Do your best to understand an opposing position as well as you understand your own. This takes patience, maturity, and hard work, but until you fully understand where others are coming from, you won’t be right.
5. You’ve reconciled your own bias.
It’s impossible to go into an argument without some kind of bias. We all have them. Rather than denying you are biased, it’s best to explore your biases. Knowing your baggage and prejudices will equip you to filter them out in an argument. The people who have the best filters are typically the ones who are right.
Sound off: What do you think is the clearest sign that you’re right in an argument?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is the worst argument you have ever been in?”