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How NOT To Prove Others Wrong

‘Everyone’s opinions can vary, but succeeding at getting people to agree with yours can lead to success in everything you do. It’s a fine art and easy make a disastrous wrong. Here are 5 methods you should NEVER use.

In this article I use the word ‘opponent’ a lot to talk about the other person, but this is in no way hinting that you are enemies with the person; it could be a friend, co-worker or even your parents.


Tell them they”re wrong. When you tell someone they’re wrong, you make them take a shot hit to their pride. I know torturers like to break in their subjects before attempting to change their mind, but I’d like to think the rest of us are a little more civil. Regardless of their intelligence, everyone likes to think that their beliefs are right, and most people are therefore resistant to changing their mind. Put simply; it isn”t nice to know you were wrong. With this in mind, don’t make it obvious that they’re going to have to change their beliefs; don”t spark up that automatic resistance. Instead present your idea as a ‘new’ idea, as an ‘extra’ idea, not as something that will have to replace their belief and hence embarrass your opponent.In other words, using the phrase ‘You”re wrong’ actually ensures your team mate, friend or partner becomes your opponent. They could have otherwise warmed to your idea quickly. Don”t underestimate how much people want their current beliefs to be right, and try to avoid contradicting their beliefs when you”re explaining your idea. If possible, highlight overlap and agreed areas between your ideas to enforce the idea that you aren”t opposing their idea.

Use words such as ‘clearly’, ‘obviously’, ‘of course’ and ‘it’s easy to see that…’. When we’re explaining our point of view, lets present it in a way that’s easy to digest. This includes not throwing in words that have the effect of be-littling your opponent. If your idea was truely ‘obvious’, then why hadn’t your opponent thought of it before? If it was so clear, then how come they cannot understand? Like the above no-no; using this style of language can be like throwing small insults while you’re trying to persuade. Don’t do it. I appreciate it can be like a habit when you’re trying to persuade, as it helps make your argument ‘look’ more believable & convincing, but generally it only does so from your point of view.If you imagine a science classroom full of 16 year olds trying to get their heads around a very difficult topic. The teacher may undoubtedly find it rather easy, but if he was to say so in front of the class, could you imagine the reaction? Would the teacher really get the desired reaction of: ‘Right, It’s supposed to be easy so hopefully I will be able to understand it if I put in more effort’? Unlikely. I think the reaction would be more like ‘He’s clearly much better than science than me and doesn”t understand how hard it is, it’s not easy at all for us, it’s probably impossible for someone of just my level. I give up.So you see, people look at the situation, and appreciate that you understand the merits of your idea while they don’t. The more you say it’s ‘obvious’ that your’s is the right answer, the more your opponent will start to question your judgement of how believable your idea is, because if it was really that clear, your opponent would understand. That judgement will start to loose you credibility in your opponents eyes, and leave them thinking; Well you’re ‘clearly & obviously’ missing something.

Go out of your way to disprove their belief

Admit it. Going out of your way to prove someone wrong is probably boosting your ego and pride more than it is genuinely letting your opponent see your point of view. In an ‘either-or’ dispute it can be easier to disprove your opponent’s idea than it is to prove your own, so it becomes tempting. Just remember that logically trouncing their argument is going to humiliate them, and cause resentment to build – Is this dispute really more valuable than your relationship with the other person? Furthermore the consistent use of this technique will create an unhelpful reputation for being harsh and tactless, and people will soon avoid disagreements with you just for the sake of it. This will never help you succeed at life in the long run.As Dale Carnegie says; If you determinedly prove someone wrong; You have have won the argument but you have lost their good will’

Hard-sell your idea

Less is more when it comes to selling your idea. A short powerful statement or dramatic action that gets your opponent thinking is better than ramming the facts down their throat and leaving them with no time to come to their own judgement. At the end of the day, your opponent is only going to believe and support you if they can understand and sympathise with the view themselves, so let them go over the facts in their head and come to the same conclusion. Present powerful facts or statements and then leave them be. If you don”t have success with that, you have to wonder whether your opinion is actually the most sensible!

Overuse the appeal to popularity

It may be tempting but this method may not be getting you anywhere with the intellectual crowd. Appealing to Popularity is what the academics call a ‘Logical fallacy’ and is when you use the idea that many people support X, to conclude that your opponent should support X. Have you ever heard people saying excusing themselves with the phrase ”Well everyone else is doing it”? Have you seen a child scream at their parents; ”But all my friends say it’s great, you have to buy it me!”. You’ve probably used it yourself! The fact of the matter is that these arguments logically carry little weight, and so long as the bulk of your argument relies on appealing to popularity, you’re at risk of having your idea completely rejected. If your opponent replied “Yes but, those people are wrong” you could be left with little to fall back on.

Those points again, DON’T:

Tell them they’re wrong

Use words such as ”clearly”, ”obviously, ”of course” and ”It’s easy to see that”

Go out of your way to disprove their belief

Hard-sell your idea

Overuse The Appeal to Popularity

So there are 5 things to avoid when hoping to persuade. I hope I’ve managed to persuade you never to use them again. Have fun influencing!

Succeed at Life! Article written by Simon Oates. Copyright 2008.

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