How To Argue Fairly

Thanksgiving, and the holidays in general often bring family arguments. The “New York Times” recently offered some suggestions for arguing fairly

LISTEN CAREFULLY — The aim of an argument should not be proving who is right, but conveying that you care about the issues. Show the person with whom you are speaking that you care about what he or she says. When you listen, go all in. Don’t half-listen while figuring out what you’re going to say next.

REFRAIN FROM ‘DROPPING THE ANCHOR’ — Some people start an argument by staking their position and refusing to budge, an impulse called “dropping the anchor.” Instead, try to understand the other person’s point of view; it does not mean you have to agree with him or her, or that you are abandoning deeply felt objections to, for example, racism or sexism.

MIND YOUR BODY LANGUAGE — Your body language can send messages that are more compelling than your words. Try to avoid gestures that are patronizing or defensive, like crossing your arms or clenching your jaw. Maintain eye contact in a way that is not a stare-down. Lean forward slightly to show you are interested. And no eye-rolling.

DON’T ARGUE TO WIN — Don’t think of an argument as an opportunity to convince the other person of your view; think of it as a way to test and improve your opinions, and to gain a better understanding of the other side. It’s rarely productive to nitpick errors in your opponent’s remarks or to argue just to “win.”

KNOW THE FACTS — A good argument is supported by evidence, but that is just a starting point. Sometimes, especially with political back-and-forths, one side will look only at evidence supporting its own position, conveniently leaving out the full picture.