How To ... Argue like a pro

Arguments are sometimes unavoidable – and don’t always end well. Ramon Thomas and Shaka Sisulu school us on the right and wrong way to argue.

The wrong way to argue - Shaka Sisulu, author and founder of Cheesekids for Humanity volunteer movement

Shaka Sisulu

1. Biting remarks are key – a tactic that’s best seen displayed by worldly – and hormonal – teenagers. They yell hurtful things like, ‘Oh, now I see why Dad left you, Mom’ before stalking off and slamming the door. It’s not pretty, but it’s effective. Watch and observe. We can all learn from them.

2. Try the more sophisticated version of loudly ridiculing your opponent. Adding a few crazy insinuations also works. This method was perfected by a certain former Youth League leader, who attempted to use it on the leader of the DA, Helen Zille. I’m glad Madam Zille never responded to his ‘sleeping around’ allegations.

3. If you can’t think of a scathing response to one of your opponent’s witty remarks, simply go off topic. There is nothing that inflames an argument more than veering off course, dredging up past disagreements and getting emotional about all of them.

4. Ask a simple question that is guaranteed to turn your foe into a foaming lunatic. Something like, ‘What is it about this debate that makes you so angry?’ should do the trick.

The right way to ague - Motivational speaker Ramon Thomas

Ramon Thomas

1. Seek first to understand before being understood. Most people do not listen to the other side of the story because they assume they are right. You will gain respect and appreciation simply by allowing the other party to express their emotions, feelings and frustrations. Encourage them with prompts like, ‘What else is on your mind?’ to ensure they feel free to speak.

2. List your shared concerns by highlighting the concerns you share with your opponent, eg ‘Each one of us has been weak, has been angry and felt misunderstood.’ The more you have in common, the easier you realise that it’s not them against you, it’s you and them against the argument.

3. Choose a neutral venue to resolve the argument. Armies often sign peace treaties at a different location from where the battle was fought.

4. Asking good questions can throw your foe off guard. Logical queries such as, ‘What evidence do you have to back that up?’ or ‘Do you have that in black and white?’ will distract your opponent, giving you time to realign your thoughts.

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