Discussions: 7 steps to learn to improve your arguments

To argue, it is essential to learn to argue.
Discussions: 7 steps to learn to improve your arguments
Image credit: Depositphotos.com

Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox

Stay informed and join our daily newsletter now!
8 min read
This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
  • Arguing is having a disagreement about something in particular with another party; so the positions will be found.
  • Beyond Graham's pyramid, it is important to know that all discussion is an exchange of arguments, no matter how opposed they may be.

"Do not raise your voice, improve your argument , " said Desmond Tutu, South Africa's first black archbishop, peace activist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

In general, when there are differences of opinion with others, in the absence of effective arguments, the tone is raised, emotions, criticisms, contradictions without evidence are exacerbated and, even worse, an attempt is made to destroy the other party.

The truth is that to discuss it is essential to learn to argue.

Arguing is having a disagreement about something in particular with another party; so the positions will be found.

Is it possible to build a healthy dialogue from there? The book “ How to disagree ” by British essayist Paul Graham brings some answers that can teach you to argue better.

The pyramid of argumentation

The reaction that occurs in front of what a person or group says can take on very different tones, and involves degrees from less rational to very rational. It is precisely this gradual scale that we can use to improve the sustenance of ideas.

For Graham there are 7 hierarchies in argumentation , being, from lowest to highest, the insult, Ad Hominem (the type of reasoning based on the opinions or acts of the person to whom one addresses with the intention of confusing or trying to convince him) , which he calls responding to the tone , and is followed by the contradiction, the counterargument, the refutation and the act of refuting the central point.

Why is it important to know where in the hierarchy of discrepancy both you and the other party are? Because it allows you to use different strategies and tactics to raise the level of yours, learning to respond to others.

By reviewing the 7 levels to arrive at solid and valid arguments, at least from the perspective of the person holding them, you will be able to enrich the differences and discussions.

Photo: Depositphotos.com

From lowest to highest:

  • Level 1: Insult : when there is no type of argument, contempt, revulsion, and disqualifying adjectives appear. For example, “You are an idiot” or “Only an ignorant person can think that way.
  • Level 2: Ad Hominem Argument : Instead of knocking down the other party's argument, what you do is attack a person's characteristics in order to discredit them. "I do not know a more immoral person to come to talk about this issue", "You are the most foolish being I know to argue that way."
  • Level 3: Response to the tone of the message: instead of dedicating yourself to answering about the content of the other party's argument, you focus only on the tone that it has. In other words, it downplays what is said, and you notice how it is expressed. "Don't talk to me with that tone because that way I can't argue", "That's how you always do! You start screaming because you don't know how to do anything else! "
  • Level 4: Contradiction : when you express the opposite opinion without giving arguments, as if it were an absolute truth, claiming to have the truth of the matter; even providing little or no evidence. "What you say does not go to me nor does it come to me: the only truth is ..."
  • Level 5: Counterargument : it is generally followed by a contradiction that you want to support with reasoning or evidence. What is tried is to present arguments to support the opinion of the person who holds it, even those that are not their own, such as when quotes or references from others are included. "You are not right, because as Socrates said ...", "I have already shown before, as everyone here knows ..."
  • Level 6: Rebuttal - For Paul Graham this is the most compelling way to disagree, as it is more than just a counterargument. In this case you find an argumentative error from the other party and highlight it to leverage it in order to knock down the opponent. Some mention certain parts with which they disagree to give the appearance of legitimate rebuttal, even if they are loose pieces only to disguise the matter. Example: "When you have affirmed such a thing, and then you add such another (here comes the refutation) the total lack of coherence in your argument is demonstrated, because this speaks of ..." (they continue with a low-level answer in the pyramid to discredit to the opponent) .
  • Level 7: Refute the central point : this level is the highest in the pyramid of argumentation, since it directly addresses the essence of the matter, even some idea of the other party can be integrated into the discussion. Here the tactic prevails, not just the strategy, since the rebuttal investigates the central point to which others are reaching, and a solid argument is needed to invalidate it. Done right, not only does it tear down the argument, but it could dismantle the whole central idea on which the counterpart was based. To exemplify: “The main point of what the other party says seems to be such a thing. As he himself has expressed (here he quotes something from the other) . But he is totally wrong and I will easily prove it because his argument is not consistent ... (and he goes on to give his reasons).

3 tips for having constructive discussions

Beyond Graham's pyramid, it is important to know that all discussion is an exchange of arguments, no matter how opposed they may be. If you are looking to achieve a constructive result, you can apply these three ideas:

  1. Seeks to win = win. The theory of the mathematician Nash analyzes the probabilities that someone wins and the other loses. However, on many occasions it is possible to reach a point of mutual agreement even if the arguments are discordant.

  2. It is not necessary to attack. The pyramid proposes a classification to disagree and move the pieces of the strategy according to your vision. However, the tone, body language and words you use will serve to build solutions, or to be cruel. It is up to you how you want to approach the arguments.

  3. Being argumentative rivals does not mean being enemies. The dance that occurs between two parties that are arguing would need to focus on the essence of the issue at hand; however, as we have seen, by pure strategy he usually deviates to want to degrade or attack. Put in the situation, it would be favorable for a good exchange to understand that defending an argument does not mean that the other is an enemy: they are only opposing arguments. Ideally, find the touchpoints and build from there. In extreme cases, when the 'shadow of the enemy' has appeared in front, it would be useful to combine Graham's pyramid with the steps of Marshall Rosenberg's non-violent communication, which are: a) describe the fact as it is, b) express how you feel faced with that, b) detect what is the unmet need for which you feel affected by certain issues, and c) seek an agreement as equitable and collaborative as possible with the other party.

More from Entrepreneur

Get heaping discounts to books you love delivered straight to your inbox. We’ll feature a different book each week and share exclusive deals you won’t find anywhere else.
Amplify your business knowledge and reach your full entrepreneurial potential with Entrepreneur Insider’s exclusive benefits. For just $5 per month, get access to premium content, webinars, an ad-free experience, and more! Plus, enjoy a FREE 1-year Entrepreneur magazine subscription.
Are you paying too much for business insurance? Do you have critical gaps in your coverage? Trust Entrepreneur to help you find out.

Latest on Entrepreneur