Arguments are an inevitable part of life.
Wouldn’t it be weird if we all got along flawlessly without issue?
The short answer is yes.
As human beings, we’re not all meant to think uniformly. The beauty of life lies in our individual complexities.
Hence, while we will invariably disagree with each other at some point, we can still do it with class and grace.
I mean, when you lose your shit in an argument, it’s not a great look.
In this article, I’ll guide you through the phrases you can utilize to get the upper hand in any argument, while still keeping things respectful.
Let’s get to it!
1) “Help me understand…”
Many people will debate and argue without really hearing the other person.
This can be incredibly frustrating, as if we’re conversing with a brick wall.
So when you show you’re open and receptive to the other person’s perspective, and actively seek clarity, this is a gracious move–and one that can defuse tensions.
It also effectively puts the proverbial ball in their court, allowing them to provide clearer reasoning for their stance before moving forward.
And if they get flustered, that’s on them.
2) “I see where you’re coming from, but have you considered…?”
As touched on, when people don’t feel heard, this tends to ramp up the defensiveness.
So when you gently acknowledge their viewpoint, they’ll likely cool down.
At this point, you can follow that up with your alternative perspective–something when done right can ultimately introduce them to a different way of thinking.
Communicating your point as a suggestion rather than a correction is far less confrontational.
Maybe it won’t immediately register, but when the dust settles, because of the calmness in your approach, they’ll come around.
3) “Let’s find common ground.”
Be the bigger person by displaying a willingness to collaborate and reach common ground.
When we’re in the heat of battle, sometimes we just see red. Then we lose perspective.
So bring things back down to Earth.
Reinforce that you’re on the same team, with the same goals, just with different approaches.
”Let’s find common ground” promotes things like mutual understanding and solutions rather than butting heads.
4) “I think we’re actually saying similar things.”
Speaking of common ground, finding commonalities is always a sound strategy when you want to reclaim control of a contentious discussion.
So instead of honing in on differences, talking about what you have in common will promote a sense of camaraderie, especially when what you’re saying has truth to it.
This will soften them up, paving the way for resolution.
I remember watching the coverage of the US presidential elections in 2008 (which Barack Obama won.)
Republican nominee the late Senator John McCain was taking questions from supporters at a town hall meeting when a woman took the mic and said “I don’t trust Obama, he’s a terrorist!”
McCain responded by politely retorting “No ma’am, he’s a decent family man, but we just happen to have fundamental differences about how to run the country.”
Now he didn’t actually say, “I think we’re saying similar things” verbatim, but the same sentiment applies.
He kept it classy and elegant and avoided a cheap, ad hominem attack on his political opponent.
His restraint and goodwill at a critical juncture earned him the respect of many, regardless of political affiliation.
So, when you strive to focus on similarities, instead of petty differences, you’re revealing a lot about your character: that you actually care about results, not just winning a fleeting argument.
5) “Can we take a step back and look at the bigger picture?”
As you may have noticed, when we argue, whether in the comment section or in real life, we tend to get caught up in the heat of the moment.
Sometimes, it’s worth temporarily removing yourself from the situation, so you can collect yourself and come back with clearer logic and thoughts–and a greater sense of diplomacy.
In an altercation with your significant other?
Go for a walk and come back an hour later. Chances are the flames will have weakened by the time you return.
The verbal equivalent to taking a walk is asking “Can you take a step back and look at the bigger picture?”
By using this, you’re shifting the focus back to the bigger picture rather than being caught up in trivialities.
It’s almost like a reset button, a verbal referee, bringing back balance to an otherwise out-of-control discussion.
6) “How did you arrive at that conclusion?”
When people make up their minds about certain issues, they can get stubborn, even when proven wrong.
This is called cognitive dissonance.
So by asking them about their thought process, you’ll get some insight into their logic–and have the opportunity to dissect holes in their reasoning and evidence, or lack thereof.
Once you do that effectively, the upper hand will be firmly in your possession.
7) “Let’s agree to disagree on this point and move forward.”
Sometimes (or a lot of the time), neither party will budge on their stances.
Yes, it can get annoying. But some arguments are simply not worth your energy.
You can argue all night, but once someone has their mind made up, there’s little that can be said to change it.
So once you come to terms with this, agreeing to disagree is the way to go.
You can promptly move to the next point, keeping the dialogue fruitful and productive.
It’s an approach rooted in maturity, as you’re more inclined towards productivity than immediate resolution.
My mom and I are polar opposites on the political spectrum.
In the past, we’ve gotten into some pretty intense spats over our incompatible ideologies.
I’d get caught up, allow myself to feel disappointed about her views, and therefore frustratedly engage her in debate.
But since she lives on the other side of the world, these days, we both consciously avoid the topic of politics during the rare times we get to see one another–always wisely choosing to “agree to disagree.”
Enjoying each other’s company is far more important.
Remember, disagreements can be productive.
Arguing doesn’t give you the license to insult, berate, and burn bridges with other people.
Once you shift your perception and start using the correct language, you’ll also start valuing mutual respect, resolution, and understanding–not merely “winning” at the expense of the other person.
You got this.