Golden Rule 1
Those Scouts are on to something. Being prepared for an argu-
ment is key to success. Sometimes arguments come out of the
blue. But not always. It may be that you realize a difficult busi-
ness meeting or conversation is going to take place, in which
case being prepared is a real advantage.
What do you want?
Before starting an argument think carefully about what it is you
are arguing about and what it is you want. This may sound obvi-
ous. But it’s crucially important. What do you really want from
this argument? Do you want the other person just to under-
stand your point of view? Or are you seeking a tangible result?
If it’s a tangible result, you must ask yourself whether the result
you have in mind is realistic and whether it’s obtainable. If it’s
not realistic or obtainable, then a verbal battle might damage a
Imagine you would like a pay rise. You have arranged a meet-
ing to discuss this with your manager. Think carefully about
whether this is a realistic goal. Is it clear the company is making
cutbacks and all budgets are being drastically reduced? If so, the
likelihood of getting a rise is probably nil and there’s little point
asking for it. But are there other things you can do to achieve
higher pay? Is there a promotion you can apply for? Increased
training you can do? Can you offer to do something extra for
the company? Think through the options before you enter the
room. Always enter an argument with a clear view about what
you want at the end.
HOW TO ARGUE
Framing an argument
When preparing your argument, spend time thinking about how
to present your point in a logical way. Admittedly, logic has a
Logic is the art of going wrong with confidence.
People are often put off by references to logic. There is even
suspicion that logic is some kind of clever trick to trip up those
who are not ‘trained’ in logic. In fact, there’s no magic to it.
True, professional logicians have developed rules of magnificent
complexity, but everyday logic is not difficult to grasp.
Logicians talk about a ‘premise’ and a ‘conclusion’. A premise
is a fact upon which it logically follows that there will be a
particular conclusion. For example: ‘I like all action films, there-
fore I like James Bond movies.’ Here the premise is that I like
action films and the logical conclusion is that I like James Bond
movies. Sometimes several premises are needed to reach a con-
clusion. In a complex argument, a series of logical conclusions
can be drawn from an initial premise. Consider this fine exam-
ple of an argument:
[T]he evils of the world are due to moral defects quite as
much as to lack of intelligence [premise]. But the human race
has not hitherto discovered any method of eradicating moral
defects . . . Intelligence, on the contrary, is easily improved by
methods known to every competent educator. Therefore, until
some method of teaching virtue has been discovered, progress
will have to be sought by improvement of intelligence rather
than of morals [conclusion].
A good argument, then, is not just saying what you think but
offering a set of reasons for it. Bad arguments will involve
people simply repeating their conclusions to each other: