38 Ways To Win An Argument

Ever been in an argument with someone and just couldn’t find a way to win? Well here are 38 techniques you can use to win any argument. I have a feeling that all the trolls on the web have printed these out and made posters of them.

  1. Carry your opponent’s proposition beyond its natural limits;
    exaggerate it.

    The more general your opponent’s statement becomes,
    the more objections you can find against it.
    The more restricted
    and narrow your own propositions remain, the easier they are to
    defend.
  2. Use different meanings of your opponent’s words to refute his
    argument.

    Example: Person A says, “You do not understand the
    mysteries of Kant’s philosophy.”
    Person B replies, “Of, if it’s
    mysteries you’re talking about, I’ll have nothing to do with them.”
  3. Ignore your opponent’s proposition, which was intended to refer
    to some particular thing.

    Rather, understand it in some quite different sense,
    and then refute it.
    Attack something different than what was asserted.
  4. Hide your conclusion from your opponent until the end.
    Mingle
    your premises here and there in your talk.
    Get your opponent to
    agree to them in no definite order.
    By this circuitous route you
    conceal your goal until you have reached all the admissions
    necessary to reach your goal.
  5. Use your opponent’s beliefs against him.
    If your opponent
    refuses to accept your premises, use his own premises to your advantage.
    Example, if the opponent is a member of an organization
    or a religious sect to which you do not belong, you may employ the
    declared opinions of this group against the opponent.
  6. Confuse the issue by changing your opponent’s words or what he
    or she seeks to prove.

    Example: Call something by a different
    name: “good repute” instead of “honor,” “virtue” instead of
    “virginity,” “red-blooded” instead of “vertebrates”.
  7. State your proposition and show the truth of it by asking the
    opponent many questions.

    By asking many wide-reaching questions at
    once, you may hide what you want to get admitted.
    Then you quickly
    propound the argument resulting from the proponent’s admissions.
  8. Make your opponent angry.
    An angry person is less capable of
    using judgment or perceiving where his or her advantage lies.
  9. Use your opponent’s answers to your question to reach different
    or even opposite conclusions.
  10. If you opponent answers all your questions negatively and
    refuses to grant you any points, ask him or her to concede the opposite
    of your premises.

    This may confuse the opponent as to
    which point you actually seek him to concede.
  11. If the opponent grants you the truth of some of your premises,
    refrain from asking him or her to agree to your conclusion.

    Later,
    introduce your conclusions as a settled and admitted fact.
    Your
    opponent and others in attendance may come to believe that your
    conclusion was admitted.
  12. If the argument turns upon general ideas with no particular
    names, you must use language or a metaphor that is favorable to
    your proposition.

    Example: What an impartial person would call
    “public worship” or a “system of religion” is described by an adherent
    as “piety” or “godliness” and by an opponent as “bigotry”
    or “superstition.”
    In other words, inset what you intend to prove
    into the definition of the idea.
  13. To make your opponent accept a proposition , you must give him
    an opposite, counter-proposition as well.

    If the contrast is
    glaring, the opponent will accept your proposition to avoid being
    paradoxical.
    Example: If you want him to admit that a boy must to
    everything that his father tells him to do, ask him, “whether in
    all things we must obey or disobey our parents.”
    Or , if a thing
    is said to occur “often” you are to understand few or many times,
    the opponent will say “many.”
    It is as though you were to put gray
    next to black and call it white; or gray next to white and call it
    black.
  14. Try to bluff your opponent.
    If he or she has answered several
    of your question without the answers turning out in favor of your
    conclusion, advance your conclusion triumphantly, even if it does
    not follow.
    If your opponent is shy or stupid, and you yourself
    possess a great deal of impudence and a good voice, the technique
    may succeed.
  15. If you wish to advance a proposition that is difficult to
    prove, put it aside for the moment.

    Instead, submit for your opponent’s
    acceptance or rejection some true proposition, as though
    you wished to draw your proof from it.
    Should the opponent reject
    it because he suspects a trick, you can obtain your triumph by
    showing how absurd the opponent is to reject an obviously true
    proposition.
    Should the opponent accept it, you now have reason on
    your side for the moment.
    You can either try to prove your
    original proposition, as in #14, maintain that your original
    proposition is proved by what your opponent accepted.
    For this an
    extreme degree of impudence is required, but experience shows cases
    of it succeeding.
  16. When your opponent puts forth a proposition, find it
    inconsistent with his or her other statements, beliefs, actions or
    lack of action.

    Example: Should your opponent defend suicide, you
    may at once exclaim, “Why don’t you hang yourself?”
    Should the opponent
    maintain that his city is an unpleasant place to live, you
    may say, “Why don’t you leave on the first plane?”
  17. If your opponent presses you with a counter-proof, you will
    often be able to save yourself by advancing some subtle distinction.

    Try to find a second meaning or an ambiguous sense
    for your opponent’s idea.
  18. If your opponent has taken up a line of argument that will end
    in your defeat, you must not allow him to carry it to its conclusion.

    Interrupt the dispute, break it off altogether, or
    lead the opponent to a different subject.
  19. Should your opponent expressly challenge you to produce any
    objection to some definite point in his argument, and you have
    nothing to say, try to make the argument less specific.

    Example:
    If you are asked why a particular hypothesis cannot be accepted,
    you may speak of the fallibility of human knowledge, and give
    various illustrations of it.
  20. If your opponent has admitted to all or most of your premises,
    do not ask him or her directly to accept your conclusion.

    Rather,
    draw the conclusion yourself as if it too had been admitted.
  21. When your opponent uses an argument that is superficial and you see
    the falsehood, you can refute it by setting forth its superficial
    character.

    But it is better to meet the opponent with acounter-argument that is just
    as superficial, and so dispose of him.
    For
    it is with victory that you are concerned, not with truth.
    Example: If the opponent appeals to prejudice, emotion or attacks you
    personally, return the attack in the same manner.
  22. If your opponent asks you to admit something from which the point in
    dispute will immediately follow, you
    must refuse to do so, declaring that it begs the question.
  23. Contradiction and contention irritate a person into exaggerating
    their statements.

    By contradicting your
    opponent you may drive him into extending the statement beyond its
    natural limit.
    When you then contradict
    the exaggerated form of it, you look as though you had refuted the
    original statement.
    Contrarily, if your
    opponent tries to extend your own statement further than your intended,
    redefine your statement’s limits and
    say, “That is what I said, no more.”
  24. State a false syllogism.
    Your opponent makes a proposition, and by
    false inference and distortion of his
    ideas you force from the proposition other propositions that are not
    intended and that appear absurd.
    It then
    appears that opponent’s proposition gave rise to these inconsistencies,
    and so appears to be indirectly refuted.
  25. If your opponent is making a generalization, find an instance to the
    contrary.

    Only one valid contradiction
    is needed to overthrow the opponent’s proposition.
    Example: “All
    ruminants are horned,” is a generalization
    that may be upset by the single instance of the camel.
  26. A brilliant move is to turn the tables and use your opponent’s
    arguments against himself.

    Example: Your
    opponent declares: “so and so is a child, you must make an allowance for
    him.”
    You retort, “Just because he is
    a child, I must correct him; otherwise he will persist in his bad habits.”
  27. Should your opponent suprise you by becoming particularly angry at an
    argument, you must urge it with all
    the more zeal.

    No only will this make your opponent angry, but it will
    appear that you have put your finger on
    the weak side of his case, and your opponent is more open to attack on
    this point than you expected.
  28. When the audience consists of individuals (or a person) who is not an
    expert on a subject, you make an
    invalid objection to your opponent who seems to be defeated in the eyes
    of the audience.

    This strategy is
    particularly effective if your objection makes your opponent look
    ridiculous or if the audience laughs.
    If your
    opponent must make a long, winded and complicated explanation to correct
    you, the audience will not be
    disposed to listen to him.
  29. If you find that you are being beaten, you can create a
    diversion–that is, you can suddenly begin to talk of
    something else, as though it had a bearing on the matter in dispute.

    This
    may be done without presumption if the diversion has some general bearing on the matter.
  30. Make an appeal to authority rather than reason.
    If your opponent
    respects an authority or an expert,
    quote that authority to further your case.
    If needed, quote what the
    authority said in some other sense or
    circumstance.
    Authorities that your opponent fails to understand are
    those which he generally admires the
    most.
    You may also, should it be necessary, not only twist your
    authorities, but actually falsify them, or quote
    something that you have entirely invented yourself.
  31. If you know that you have no reply to the arguments that your
    opponent advances, you by a find stroke of
    irony declare yourself to be an incompetent judge.

    Example: “What you say
    passes my poor powers of
    comprehension; it may well be all very true, but I can’t understand it,
    and I refrain from any expression of
    opinion on it.”
    In this way you insinuate to the audience, with whom you
    are in good repute, that what your
    opponent says is nonsense.
    This technique may be used only when you are
    quite sure that the audience thinks
    much better of you than your opponent.
  32. A quick way of getting rid of an opponent’s assertion, or of throwing
    suspicion on it, is by putting it into
    some odious category.

    Example: You can say, “That is fascism” or
    “Atheism” or “Superstition.”
    In making an
    objection of this kind you take for granted
    1)That the assertion or
    question is identical with, or at least
    contained in, the category cited;
    and
    2)The system referred to has been
    entirely refuted by the current audience.
  33. You admit your opponent’s premises but deny the conclusion.
    Example:
    “That’s all very well in theory, but
    it won’t work in practice.”
  34. When you state a question or an argument, and your opponent gives you
    no direct answer, or evades it
    with a counter question, or tries to change the subject, it is sure sign
    you have touched a weak spot,
    sometimes without intending to do so.

    You have, as it were, reduced your
    opponent to silence.
    You must,
    therefore, urge the point all the more, and not let your opponent evade
    it, even when you do not know where
    the weakness that you have hit upon really lies.
  35. Instead of working on an opponent’s intellect or the rigor of his
    arguments, work on his motive.

    If you
    success in making your opponent’s opinion, should it prove true, seem
    distinctly prejudicial to his own interest,
    he will drop it immediately.
    Example: A clergyman is defending some
    philosophical dogma.
    You show him that
    his proposition contradicts a fundamental doctrine of his church.
    He will
    abandon the argument.
  36. You may also puzzle and bewilder your opponent by mere bombast.
    If
    your opponent is weak or does
    not wish to appear as if he has no idea what your are talking about, you
    can easily impose upon him some
    argument that sounds very deep or learned, or that sounds indisputable.
  37. Should your opponent be in the right but, luckily for you, choose a
    faulty proof, you can easily refute it and
    then claim that you have refuted the whole position.

    This is the way in
    which bad advocates lose good cases.

    If no accurate proof occurs to your opponent, you have won the day.

  38. Become personal, insulting and rude as soon as you perceive that your
    opponent has the upper hand.

    In
    becoming personal you leave the subject altogether, and turn your attack
    on the person by remarks of an
    offensive and spiteful character.
    This is a very popular technique,
    because it takes so little skill to put it into
    effect. (this is wha trolls like to do)

Taken from Arthur Schopenhauer’s Art of Controversy.

38 thoughts on “38 Ways To Win An Argument

  1. One of the ads that I had was “Ask a Mechanic”. What does that mean? Do Mechanic’s have all the answers, or do they just argue well?

  2. i use most of these points all the time but so does my cousin which means our arguments last for years until new evedince comes up on the side of either opponent

  3. This is more like a list of “dirty tricks used by bad arguers.” Most (but not all) of these techniques are extremely poor logic and are exactly the approaches you should avoid in a real argument. E.g.; #38 is argumentum ad hominem, an informal fallacy that immediately renders your argument unsound.

    Sometimes you can “win” an argument with fallacious reasoning and cheap tactics, but you won’t be proving the truth of your proposition. It’s better to win an argument by being right.

    1. Indeed, I haven’t be able to get through the whole list without finding suggestion for using straw man arguments to prove your point. Ahh…. here it is

      3.Ignore your opponent’s proposition, which was intended to refer
      to some particular thing.
      Rather, understand it in some quite different sense,
      and then refute it.
      Attack something different than what was asserted.

      Really? These are most if not all based on illogical, irrational ways to argue and argue poorly. If you win with these tactics and haven’t proved the validity of your argument what was the point?

  4. True, but knowing these would also be useful to defend against those using them.
    And sadly, in message board arguments and American politics, among many others, being right doesn’t work if you don’t have a defense against these techniques.

  5. This can ABSOLUTELY be used by 10-14 year-olds.

    I myslef am 16 and the leading proponent for my political party (which one is irrelevant) at my school. If you use these in INFORMAL conversation and banter with other teens, kids, and adults, most will be fooled and/or defeated by the sheer complexity or surface-level correctness of the argument.

    Ultimately, though, the only way to guarantee 100% victory in an argument is for you to be skillful and correct, and for your opponent to lack a vital skill that you choose to draw out in the course of the argument.

  6. you should try readin “How to Argue and Win Everytime” by Gerry Spence (a famed trail attorney)
    You have several lethal mistakes which will ruin you from the beginning here. The “Conceal your conclusion” tip will destroy your cedibility and close the Other to your argument. Be up fron and honest about what you want. NEVER attack your oppenant. Than, it is you who wears the black hat and he who wears the white hat. You need to wear the white hat, you are, after all, right and the good guy.

  7. hi my name is brittany middlebrooks i have i started an argument with my friends friend from maryland she is now trying to argue with me and what should i do? please help!

  8. Actually your steps are are tactics used by people that loosing a debate/argument when they have no facts or logical counter point to refutee their opponent.
    So your title should read “38 Ways to Win an Argument When you Have No Facts or Logical Counter to Prove Your Point”

  9. I highly suggest not to use most of these tactics on you spouce or loved-one as there is s high probability you will make things worse. Winning an argument with these tactics in truth is not a win at all.

  10. Some signs someone is loosing an argument/debate:

    1) they start name calling i.e. moron

    2) They repeat themselves over and over again regardless of what you say

    3) They address only a small part of your argument

    4) bring up more questions completely randomly

    5) they try and make you look like an idiot

    6) avoiding questions

    7) try to prove their point by pointing out they have more credibility either through intelligence or experience

    8) start using inuendos in their words to suggest their opponent is less than they are or not worth consideration

    I know I only list 8 signs but some of these match to multiple items from the article. Anyone one could eassily write an article “Signs To Look For That You are Winning an Argument” and just use his tactics to win as your example that someone is loosing.

  11. The tactics themselves are NOT stupid.

    They merely involve you PLAYING dumb.

    And yes they involve you creating illogical and fallacious arguments, but for the purpose of “winning” an informal argument they are actually quite devious.

    These tactics can actually be devastating against inexperienced arguers and even disrupt intelligent ones. Now they are obviously ‘dirty tricks’ tactics designed to make it seem like you are winning an argument, they are not tactics for forming logically sound proper debates, but the page clearly indicates they are such. These tactics can completely fool less intelligent opponents who are weak on critical thinking. They also can be effective at frustrating and derailing more intelligent opponents. Most of all they keep the argument going and they keep the other person having to respond to cheap and illogical arguments which can suck them into responding with a cheap and illogical rebuttal. Once they do that you can switch back into logical mode and attack that one illogical thing they said for all it’s worth.

    In principle I hate the idea of arguing to make your opponent lose and not just arguing to authenticate a true point, however in reality you get in to arguments sometimes and your pride gets to you and the last thing on earth you want to do is concede you are wrong so you will do whatever it takes.

    Warning: These techniques will most likely not fly against a person with excellent natural critical thinking, and these will just downright make you look ridiculous in any type of formal debate setting.

  12. Another way to win an argument is to point out how ridiculous or pointless the topic or theme is. This point would put him in awkardness with him thinking over the situation and allow you have time to counter the topic.

  13. There are so many spelling errors in this article and most of it doesn’t even make sense! Seriously, who wrote this? A 10 year old kid??

    1. Though not attributed here, these are the German philosopher Martin Heidegger’s 38 ways (dirty tricks) to win an argument … that can only work if the audience, or your opponent is uneducated in rational thinking. They all employ faulty logic that leaves the unaware feeling “had”, but unable to figure out exactly why.
      I’m listing the link to give honest truth-seekers a legitimate way of protecting themselves, and exposing fraud and manipulation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

  14. I would certainly never say these methods are stupid. The subject of this article is, after all, WINNING–not honesty–in an argument. My main problem with them is, it all sounds so exhausting! I guess I would make a poor debater–I HATE arguments. I just never walk away from one once it starts. Probably stupidity on my part!

    But I would love to win more arguments, or I wouldn’t be here. And I don’t win many arguments because I am a naively honest person, and I naively think that other people’s motives are just as honest. I’m not a devious thinker, nor do I like, or employ, mind games. As a result, I’m not sure I would be successful using these tactics. I would probably end up looking like a ham-fisted clod.

  15. To win a argument, simply be a smart-ass and make the other person angry. Once they’re angry, that’s it. You’ve won.

  16. Thank you, Charlotte! Viva la satire! And nice post, Scrivs. I don’t mean to be a troll, but I just blogged similar argument satire at my site, exploring in a purely satirical way the use of illogic to brain punk your poor spouse or significant other into capitulation in any argument. You can also check the post out by quickly searching my name at Science20.com or at PsychologyToday.com.

    Again, this rocks. Anyone who fails to see the humor…well, piss off.

    Cheers,
    Garth Sundem

  17. This is so incredibly sad. If these kinds of tactics are what it takes to win an argument, chances are you’re position on whatever the topic may be is not well founded. I guess I’m just a little old fashioned and extremely naive. I would prefer using truth, facts and a genuine respect for the other persons point of view. Guess I won’t be winning any debates anytime soon. Thanks for the post anyway, it was an interesting read.

    -Cheers

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