What to consider when you find yourself in an argument

When it comes to argumentation, I have come to find great value in understanding its structure. An argumentation is essentially a claim followed by reasons. It involves a claim-maker and an audience.

However, merely having these two participants is not enough. We also need to consider the critical listener, someone who starts out skeptical and can be convinced. If the other party cannot be convinced despite the claim and reasons presented, there can be no reasonable argument. If the critical listener starts out persuaded then no extra value can be gained since they are the ones who substantiate the claim. It should be noted I avoid self evident truths, for example, there is no point in arguing if the sun is shining if you can just walk outside and observe it.

For an argument to take place, there must be shared meaning. This means there must be some universally agreed-upon items of truth. For example, arguing between an atheist and a Christian may not be productive because their worldviews differ significantly. They lack shared beliefs.

Another important aspect is that an argument is not a fight. It requires cooperation between participants. Using force or blind acceptance hinders a genuine argument. For example, if we both prioritize the well-being of children, we can debate whether video games have educational value.

Uncertainty is also vital; an argument should revolve around something that is not easily resolved. If a matter can be easily confirmed or disproven, there is no need for argumentation. Instead, experiments or future observations may be more appropriate.

Lastly, it’s worth considering the perspective from which someone approaches an argument. Acceptance of an argument often depends on the person’s background and worldview. To make a persuasive argument, we should base our reasoning on their viewpoint or at least on a perspective they may eventually come to accept.

I talk in a bit more detail on conflict in teams here: https://blog.chenchatech.com/2018/03/managing-constructive-disagreement/

What do you consider when getting into an argument? Talk to me on my Twitter @jchex


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Software Project Manager