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I enjoy a healthy discussion. People may trip over various random aspects of my statements that I didn't consider and object which allows me to (1) learn how to formulate better next time and (2) consider different perspectives on the issue that I didn't think of before.

Over time, I think I became decent at this little game, because instead of objecting and allowing me to learn people start to more and more adopt my views. (Despite them not necessarily being correct, they apparently just seem very convincing.)

I actually enjoy the objection/discussion part a lot more, because I get this feeling of improvement/learning from it. Thus, my solution to that was to shift to (1) more extreme views (easier to object) and (2) more ethical topics (you can always argue here).

Both are kind of bad. The extreme views (1) are not necessarily my actual opinion, which is usually quite liberal [and if I do manage to convince somebody...]. Ethical topics (2) turn out to be quite hard to discuss because most people just (semi-blindly) follow the first reasonable sounding view presented to them. Hence, I am looking for alternative strategies.

For this question, my goal is to: Encourage people to critically analyze my arguments/statements and object them so that I can achieve the feeling of improvement/learning and (hopefully) improve my views and communication skills in the process.

Note: I am not looking for a solution along the lines of saying "can you please try to find a flaw in my arguments". I can only do this in very specific situations (e.g. journal clubs, discussion rounds, ...) and with specific people (that also enjoy arguments) so I don't think this is generally applicable [feel free to object xD].

Instead, I am looking for ways to implicitly encourage this behavior towards me. That way people will actually try to convince me and not just try to do me the favor of playing along. [Not sure if I manage to communicate that idea correctly.]

Edit: This has caused confusion so I want to mention it explicitly: I am interested in healthy discussions, i.e. those that are actually constructive as opposed to throwing acquisitions and emotional jabbing. Of course I sometimes encounter these (who doesn't), but I usually manage to steer the conversation into calmer waters. Potentially, because I'm simply not triggered easily by said emotional jabs.

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    Could you clarify the setting of these situations you find yourself in? Or do you want advice that pertains to any sort of argument/debate? I put in an answer, but I can focus it to be more specialized if you focus your question – Clay07g Apr 13 '18 at 19:22
  • @Clay07g If there is something that is generally applicable I'd take that. If not, it used to be either technical discussions or (local) politics, e.g. "How would you deploy infrastructure to switch to electric cars by 2020?" or "How should we go about finding a new head of division? (In this specific case they were 'elected')". Now it shifted to more open ended things (see my question) – FirefoxMetzger Apr 14 '18 at 8:13
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It is a good idea to first consider why someone might not want to find flaws in your argument.

Let's list a few:

  • They do not want to even participate (hence they follow along until you stop talking)
  • They just wanted to state their opinion and not debate it
  • They do not feel comfortable with the setting (arguing about politics while eating, for example, would be uncomfortable)

I'm going to separate this one:

  • The discussion is emotionally-charged and the other party is not wanting to debate their ideas, but rather express their feelings

The simple fact is that no one guides their entire life based on reason and logic. Humans aren't capable of this. A lot of opinions, reasons, arguments, all stem from emotion and feelings. We sometimes can even convince ourselves that we are using "logic" and "proof", when we are in fact, not, which is why we have a large list of Logical Fallacies.

So let's go through 2 general scenarios:

Scenario 1: The other party falls into one of my categories above

In this case, the best solution for you is to end the discussion of the topic. Disengage if you have to. Or better, don't start an argument at all.

Remember... arguments have their time and place. Recognizing these situations is a large part of Interpersonal Skills.

If the other party does not wish to have a serious debate and help you understand them, you cannot really urge them to.

If you must, you can use something along the lines of:

I know this is an emotional/controversial subject. I'm not against you and want to keep an open mind about the topic.

This might give the other party the opportunity to have a more formal discussion. If the other party still does not want to do so, don't continue.

And remember.... just because you want to have a formal logical debate, and the other person doesn't, does NOT make you right or better. Some people don't like debates, and there's nothing wrong with that. They are still allowed to have opinions.


Scenario 2: The other party wants to have a debate, but isn't addressing your points:

Often times, we want to have a debate, but it somehow turns into emotional squabbling. It happens. Or maybe it's still somewhat civil, but the other party still isn't challenging your side in the way you might expect.

If the other party is in a civil, logical, debate with you, it's probably more likely they are opening to learning and helping you learn.

Therefore, you can try saying something like:

I know we are in a debate, but I am not doing it to convince you that you are wrong. It would help me greatly if you could apply your point of view to some of the arguments I have stated.


General Tips:

  • Watch your tone. If you are belittling, hostile, etc, it will affect the other party. No one will want to help you if you sound like you don't want to be helped.
  • Don't make counter arguments to the other parties counter arguments, at least not immediately. Instead, try letting them know that you see where they are coming from and offer your point of view. For example, instead of saying "You're wrong because of [Scientific Evidence X]", say "I don't see it like that because of a source I found that shows [Scientific Evidence X]"
  • Make it clear that you're arguing because YOU want to have a better understanding and also help others understand your viewpoint, without making it seem like you are trying to "educate" others. In other words, don't try to make yourself seem like the teacher, but instead promote an equal-to-equal conversation.
  • I'm not the down voter but it seems to me that most of the General Tips and the Important Note section are a bit tangential. The last general tip especially seems to ignore one of the points the OP is trying to ask how to do. – user15922 Apr 13 '18 at 20:48
  • @IceC Can you be more specific? I edited that point to be more clear. I also deleted the important note, because it really wasn't important. The question is fairly broad, so I'm trying to cover all the bases. – Clay07g Apr 13 '18 at 21:01
  • No need. That edit made what you were trying to say much clearer to me. I had originally misinterpreted what you meant. +1 from me now. – user15922 Apr 13 '18 at 21:12
  • @Clay07g 1) How would I go about identifying a situation from scenario 1? Also an opinion is a preference how something ought to be, right? I don't understand why people would inform but not elaborate. Unless they think they are important to me and hope I will use this information to make them more happy in the future. Especially if there is a clear goal in the argument this seems to be inconsistent behavior. – FirefoxMetzger Apr 14 '18 at 8:36
  • @FirefoxMetzger Basically scenario 1 is any conversation in which the other party seems unwilling to have an in-depth discussion. You can try the one-liners I stated above, but you have to respect the other party's wishes and if they don't align with yours, move on. Most arguments outside of debate club don't start with a clear goal in mind. – Clay07g Apr 14 '18 at 22:07

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