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10 things to do for better arguments

    1. Identify whether you want to be right or whether you want the truth about the situation

    Attacking someone because you want to be right is different from challenging another person because you want to understand the situation better.

    2. Understand the why

    Understanding the why can help you both get to a better position. For example, I want to refresh my backyard fence whereas my neighbour does not. I may want to refresh it because I see it as a hazard for my children. My neighbour does not because it costs money which they do not have. From understanding the why's, we can start to explore if there are other options to address both of our needs (i.e., cost-effective solutions for making the fence safer).

    3. Understanding where you are in the ladder of inference

    Sometimes we see a text from a stranger on our partner's phone and think they are cheating on us but actually it's because we jumped the ladder of inference. Instead, we need to note where we are on the ladder and slowly build our understanding from there.

    4. Be objective about the analysis and background

    What are the observable facts about the situation? What 'facts' are actually opinions or conclusions being made that are not supported?

    5. Have open dialogue

    I'm sure there's a time and place for keeping information close to you but I think a lot of situations can be managed just by having open dialogue about what people want, why they want it, and what they are willing to back off on.

    6. Ask good questions

    Open-ended questions get more information than yes-no questions.

    7. What does 'winning' look like?

    When you're in an argument, rarely do you ever 'win'. People have a mindset or belief and you can't change that in a 15 or 30 min conversation. But what you can do is help people understand that they may have gaps in their knowledge they need to explore.

    8. Prepare in advance

    The approach I like to take is to first understand the situation. Ask questions about what happened. What was the other person's intent? How do they feel about what happened? What would they suggest in terms of next steps or approach? Also figure out what outcome you are looking for.

    9. Identify your BATNA

    BATNA stands for best alternative to negotiated agreement - in other words, if you don't come to a negotiated agreement, what is your best outcome? After a negotiation, you shouldn't be worse than your BATNA.

    10. If you are trying to persuade someone, ask them "what evidence would I have to show to change your mind?"

    Either they tell you exactly what you need to show to change their mind or they tell you you can't change their mind. Either way is a win.

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