I confess. I can be a shrinking violet. I hate confrontation. In fact, I’m not sure if I hate it, or if most of the time, I simply can’t be bothered. Other people seem to care far more – you can tell by their red faces – so I gently acquiesce and bow down gracefully. I decided I wanted to start being proactive in how I address this particular weakness of mine. Here is how I learnt to stand my ground.
Know your opponent
Think about how they approach an argument and how this makes you feel. They might be aggressive and domineering and this might throw you off guard. Some people are downright confusing and use manipulative tactics to push you into a corner. Others are frighteningly clever and you inadvertently defer to their intelligence (which doesn’t necessarily mean they are right).
If you visualise their presence and how you want to react, you’ll be prepared and wary of that rush of adrenaline that confrontation can sometimes bring. I highly recommend researching your opponents’ personality.
Know your opponent’s point of view
This is more important than knowing your own. Don’t simply rush through counter arguments, think about why they think like they do. What are their motivations? Imagine you fully support their point of view and break down their rationale into logical chunks, all leading to your final conclusion.
Think again about their personality and how they like to argue. They might be emotional, in which case apply to their sensitivities. If they are logical and tend to avoid emotional issues, think about the practicalities of your argument and theirs.
Prepare for battle
Once you can rattle off your opponent’s arguments, rehearse. Say their points aloud. Respond with your own. Practise each word like it’s a play. Memorise. Do this until you are so bored with the particular subject matter that you have removed all sense of emotion.
Remember, winning an argument is simply completing a puzzle and with the right preparation you can lead your opponent until all the pieces fall into place.
Have sympathy for the devil
Have you heard ‘you catch more flies with honey’? Being angry, patronising or rude never won an argument. It might shut someone up but is unlikely to win them round. Seek patience, sympathy and kindness instead. Not only will a calm considered approach give you more time to gather your confidence and think clearly, but you might also gain your opponent’s trust.
Do them a favour
A dirty tactic maybe? Do something to put them into a good mood before leading them into battle. If they begin with an underlying sense of gratitude towards you then you will have set the tone for the ensuing discussion.
Bump up their sense of gratitude with a bit of flattery thrown in. Keep this as sincere as you can by believing in any compliments you throw their way.
Try to make this as subtle as possible! Aim for setting the mood as far in advance as possible and at the very least, a good hour before you raise your particular issue. Catch them relaxed, content, and lead them into gentle conversation, allowing them to take (perceived) control.
You already know what they’re going to say and make sure you agree with them as far as possible, with a few nudges, tweaks and good humour until you’ve turned the situation around. You want to end with your opponent believing you’re on the same side. They just haven’t realised it’s your side.