Here's How to Never Lose An Argument Again


Are you ready to win an argument every time? Whether you’re debating world peace, civil rights issues or who should have taken out the garbage on Monday night because it was their turn and no one should have to remind them because we are adults, Mark, and we do not live like animals, there’s now a better way to argue. And it’s supported by research. Just don’t tell your opponent.

Remember when you were a kid and you had one of those arguments when you screamed “did not/did too” at your sibling/friend/parent who acted more like a child than you which is the reason you are in therapy? Remember how you won by quickly shifting your position forcing the other person to change theirs, thereby agreeing with you and crowning you the winner? Well, much rejoicing is to be had because you can relive those moments time after time and day after day if you agree with your opponent instead of fighting them. Dirty tricks, that’s how arguments are won.

This technique is called a paradoxical intervention and is used in a variety of settings. I first learned about it during my training as a clinician and while it sounds counterintuitive to agree with someone when you don’t actually agree with them, this type of joining may be a way to get your opponent or conversational partner to reevaluate their point of view. And while it may seem like it’s foolproof, it takes a lot of practice and can sometimes backfire. (Actually, if you’re going to do this, don’t do it in an argument about anything important until you are sure you have the technique down.) (You also have to remember that sometimes it’s better to be loved than to be right, no matter what your brain is telling you.)

Here’s something you probably already know if you’ve ever had an argument (or 2000) before. Sometimes people don’t agree with you even when your points are bullet-proof (fire away, fire away). And that’s not because you’re wrong; it’s because when we (humans) get defensive, there’s usually a psychological block to agreeing with the other person. Call it ego, call it pride, just don’t call it logical. (Or late for dinner.) (God, I need to take my parenthetical game up/down a notch.)

A psychological research team at Tel Aviv University tested whether a paradoxical intervention would work by selecting a particularly divisive topic: The Israel-Palestine conflict. They gathered 150 participants and divided them into groups, showing some a tourism video and showing others videos that were a little bit more disturbing.

Here’s one of the videos, via .Mic. The film’s message is that Israel needs to continue fighting so that their army can continue being the most powerful army in the world: (I must warn you that some might find this video disturbing.)

And here’s another video. This one is less violent and states that the Israeli-Palestine conflict is needed for Israel to continue “being the most upright nation in the world.”

Yes, these videos absolutely look like propaganda right out of The Hunger Games and they were also apparently very difficult for the participants to watch, even though they didn’t go against their views. Instead, they amplified them! And .Mic reports that after watching the videos over a period of months, thirty percent of participants were actually open to reassessing their views.

Of course, there were some drawbacks: Some participants actually incorporated these extreme points of view into their general philosophy and, because the videos are difficult to watch, participants had to be forced to look at them. But, researchers note that paradoxical interventions had “a significant effect on the unfreezing of socio-psychological barriers” which is useful knowledge that can be used to develop more studies that incorporate paradoxical interventions. And while this study may not be the answer to world peace, it may be useful in your own life. Just remember to use your newfound knowledge for good, not for evil. (Unless it involves taking out the trash, then all bets are off.)

Image via Shutterstock

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