Big Think uploaded a video on how to argue the above at the end of last month, just in time for the United States midterm elections. Where politics – or rather, politically influenced conflict – has become more or less another national sport, everyone is always looking for an edge. But the expert who stars in the video, head of Harvard’s International Negotiations program and Negotiating the Non-Negotiable author Daniel Shapiro, has a very broad idea of what it means to win an argument. Our goal, as he envisioned it, is to have “more effective conversations,” and this requires understanding three keys to having those conversations: identity, appreciation, and affiliation.
“When your identity gets caught up in these conflicts,” says Shapiro, “suddenly your emotions become a hundred times stronger” — and the debate becomes a hundred times more difficult to manage. Therefore, you must “know who you are and what you stand for,” the “values and beliefs” that drive you to argue for your particular position.
Ideally, you’d also be trying to find out the same thing about your opponent, or rather the person you’re talking to. This is where the importance of appreciation. Shapiro’s advice: “When you are in the middle of a conflict, don’t talk. Spend the first ten minutes consciously listening to the other party. What is the value behind their perspective? What is the logic, the reason?”
It allows you to assess the “emotional connection” between yourself and other people. The trick is to “turn the other person from enemy to partner” by framing the conversation not as a conflict but as “facing a problem together,” not least by asking their advice on how to solve it. You can learn more about Shapiro’s concept of “interest-based negotiation” in this other short Big Think video, and more about his principles of argumentation in his Google talk above. In it, he outlines the elements of the “tribes effect” that keep us fighting, including our attitudes about taboos and our tendencies towards identity politics. And all of this was worth watching, of course, with the argumentative bloodsport approach the dinner table of the day became known as Gratitude.
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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcastst about the city, language and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter book about cities, book The City Without a State: A Journey through 21st Century Los Angeles and video series City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.