Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Power of Argument

ar-gu-ment n. [ar-gyu-mehnt] 
  1. a reason given in proof or rebuttal; discourse intended to persuade (Mirriam-Webster online http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/argument 
  2. a coherent series of statements leading from a premise to a conclusion (Mirriam-Webster online http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/argument 
  3. a reason or set of reasons given in support of an idea, action or theory (from http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/argument)

When I hear the word "argument" I think of the personal, verbal sparring I try to avoid - the personal kind where emotions (and often) voices are high, there is often some sort of confrontation, and while they may at times enlighten, they usually don't - instead they leave me emotionally spent (albeit often somewhat relieved).  In writing this, though, I realize that when I think of 'argument' I often think of 'fighting' BUT argument' does not need to entail fighting.

Furthermore, there is something to be said for arguments.  

Arguments offer
  • opportunities for clarification, 
  • opportunities for problem solving and brainstorming,
  • opportunities to sharpen social skills,
  • are the ground work for debate,
  • and sharpen communication skills necessary to relay and convince
The key to arguing your point, be it intellectual or personal, is to:
  • clearly and succinctly relay and express your position - addressing one point at a time, 
  • control the emotional component to arguments,
  • optional (but equally powerful and important):  add some humor or related vignettes, making it easier for listeners to comprehend, internalize and acknowledge  (albeit not necessarily agree with)
As Monty Python so aptly put it:
"An argument is a collective series of statements to establish a definite proposition...it's an intellectual process"
So with the argument clinic behind us, enjoy this Python classic example of argument which  further illustrates its intellectual component as well as provide superb examples of literary devices such as metaphors, alliteration, palindromes, puns and personification:

I realize now that while I was raised by parents who avoided confrontations and as a result tend to shy away from arguments, there is something to be said for them - at least for those arguments whose purpose it is to clarify, expand, explore and define scientific,  intellectual, social, or verbal nuances about the world around us.

There are times though, especially in interpersonal relationships and parenting, when arguments aren't intellectual or humorous.

Dealing with non-intellecutal, non-humorous arguments (to avoid a subsequent fight):
  • try to keep an authoritative not authoritarian voice;
  • focus on one topic at a time;
  • keep the argument concrete - focusing on the issue(s) and not on making personal / emotional judgements - don't name call, curse, or add negative emotions to what should be a discussion;
  • when arguing with your child be consistent but add options and compromise opportunities (avoiding power struggles) ;
  • take and give time outs where neither side speaks - avoiding saying things that will be regretted, while calming tempers (but don't just walk out or turn a back - explain that you need time to think this out or to cool down);
  • acknowledge feelings while disagreeing with positions (it's amazing how far and how important it is to separate feelings from the reality of the situation while validating or at least acknowledging those feelings)
  • recognize that there is a difference between fighting and arguing - while fights often involve anger and rarely lead to consent, arguing can be healthy ... cool down fights.
How do you approach arguments? For fun or self-reflection you may want to learn more about your arguing style.  Psychology Today offers a 43 question (20 minute) "Arguing Style Test" and while it is really for arguing with partners rather than with kids, they are informative:
[Note: I found the first more informative and second link interesting  but not all that insightful.  The positive thing about these tests are that the questions themselves teach better 'arguing']

Let me know what you think - about arguing, how you argue, or your thoughts on these links.


  1. My ex, on August 22, 1974, gave a monologue harangue about everything I had done wrong in our relationship in the three years we were together. In the car, with two other people, for 1.5 hours, all the way into the concert, and even after the concert started. I just walked away.

  2. My friend runs a holiday cottage called Argument Cottage! Would highly recommend it too! lol!

  3. Loved this! I think arguing can be healthy, whereas I think of fighting as more calling names, using emotional blackmail, etc., to win at all costs. I think you can argue or dispute a point, and both sides can win, whereas simply making the other person feel so terrible s/he gives up isn't a real win for anyone.

  4. I am not going to argue with you today.

    I enjoyed learning all the new things about Arguing today. Fun post for A day today.

    Thanks for your visit today.

  5. I'm not going to argue with you either! Fun post! I'm not into arguing with anyone, takes too much energy and rarely accomplishes anything worthwhile -- at least that's been my experience. Hope you have a peaceful, non-argumentative week!!


  6. Arguing usually is just too exhausting and doesn't seem to accomplish much of anything but getting the blood pressure up and the stomach upset.
    Very interesting information and the video clips are perfect.

  7. I'm so glad we can disagree, agreeable. Every couple needs to learn this.

    Your article is very good, most interesting, and lots of good advice. What a great way to begin our Round 9.

  8. Easier to know than to do! Excellent, as always...

  9. This was a great post. It's important to debate and hear as well as give different view points.

  10. I believe this is my second time at your blog.
    I like the clarity with which you write your post.
    I look forward for your second book.

  11. Argument is Always something I like to Avoid but if needs Arises, I argue too.

    Please come and see someArt Expression at my page, thanks.

  12. Thanks for the link to the Psychology Today test. Apparently I employ positive fighting tactics!

  13. It always seems simple enough on paper. The hard part is applying the lesson effectively!

  14. OH Meryl, I don't know whether you suggested that pounding the table to emphasis the point you are trying to make is allowable or constructive?

  15. The emotional component to an argument is what's always tricky to me (especially with loved ones). The attitude borders on something not helping until I realized it was costly and I now try to put in some brains in an argument I have to deal with. Still learning. Thanks for this intelligent post.

  16. This was an amazing read- enjoyed every word.

  17. What an interesting post. I especially love to listen to people argue over politics...lots of that going on lately in the good ole' USA! Thanks for stopping by.

  18. Sometimes its good to remember the quote.. "When fools talk, the wise remain silent"

    Pheno, ABC Wednesday Team

  19. Absolutely fabulous rendition for ABC Wed. Associate argument with anger and debate with a level-headed exchange of views. Sometimes only arguing releases what we really meant to say.

  20. wonderful post. no arguments ! :)

  21. Very valuable post! Arguing is a nasty habit, but the hints you gave are very important. I never call names in an argument, which I call a misunderstanding. I try to listen to the one who doesn't agree with me. If there is no solution I prefer to end the conversation, go away and if the relationship is getting more difficult, I break further contact off. If this person ask me what the matter is I will tell that I feel unhappy with the whole situation, and leave it to him or her to repair the relationship. BTW I enjoyed watching the two videos of Monty Python! ;)

  22. ... And do not - repeat DO NOT - suddenly say 'I don't have to listen to this' and walk out of the room whistling a merry tune. It's guaranteed to make me ... uh ... people want to commit murder! LOL!

  23. arguments can be good too. loved reading this post. do read this one where I wrote one on argument too. http://sushmaspage.blogspot.com/2010/12/why-not-argue.html

  24. I always argue, that's in my nature, lol ! the parrot video is hilarious !

  25. Very interesting I also avoid conflict and I am really good at it.
    Arguing is a great one for me. With the kids home from school it seems like all the do is argue. At least I had a laugh today. Thank you for that.

  26. I don't like to argue... when the boys were young I would tend to keep things inside if hubs & I disagreed.. but now I tend to play 'devils advocate' on any kind of discussion- don't know why... maybe to get all the sides out into the open?

  27. This is a cool post! I've tried to stay out of arguments too much in the last few years and realized... dang, I have a lot that needs to be said!

  28. I cannot cope with arguments whether they are emotional - get too cross - or rational - not clever enough to defend my opinion!

  29. this is a very interesting article...I see your points...thanks for sharing...:)

  30. I have to think that if you aren't at least arguing, then you aren't having any conversations anymore. I think they can be healthy...maybe calling them "disagreements" is nicer?