Tuesday, July 12, 2005

How to Argue Effectively

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-Morton Downey Jr. engaging a guest

So I'm taking this class right now on Ethics and a major part of it is analyzing the structure of arguments. I personally suck at arguing, so I avoid it at all costs. I was talking to my friend Toby earlier today and he reminded me of this awesome method for winning arguments written by Dave Barry. At some point or another one of your cheeky friends probably emailed this to you. If so I could care less. Read it again. It's good. I tried the Hitler tactic on my mom the other day when she said something notably dim while driving in the car. She almost slapped herself out of sheer confusion. Trust me. These techniques really work. Read on:

Dave Barry- "How To Argue Effectively"

I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don't even invite me. You too can win arguments. Simply follow these rules:

Drink Liquor

Suppose you are at a party and some hotshot intellectual is expounding on the economy of Peru, a subject you know nothing about. If you are drinking some health-fanatic drink like grapefruit juice, you'll hang back, afraid to display your ignorance, while the hotshot enthralls your date. But if you drink several large martinis, you'll discover you have strong views about the Peruvian economy. You'd be a wealth of information. You'll argue forcefully, offering searing insight and possibly upsetting furniture. People will be impressed. Some may leave the room.

Make Things Up

Suppose, in the Peruvian economy argument, you are trying to prove that Peruvians are underpaid, a position you base solely on the fact that you are underpaid, and you'll be damned if you're going to let a bunch of Peruvians be better off. Don't say: "I think Peruvians are underpaid." Say instead: "The average Peruvian's salary in 1981 dollars adjusted for the revised tax base is $1,452.81 per annum, which is $836.07 below the mean gross poverty level."

NOTE: Always make up exact figure. If an opponent asks you where you got your information, make that up too. Say: "This information comes from Dr. Hovel T. Moon's study for the Buford Commission published an May 9, 1982. Didn't you read it?" Say this in the some tone of voice you would use to say, "You left your soiled underwear in my bathroom."

Use Meaningless But Weighty- Sounding Words and Phrases

Memorize this list:

Let me put it this way
In terms of
Per se
As it were
So to speak

You should also memorize some Latin abbreviations sued as "Q.E.D.", "e.g." and "i.e." These are all short for "I speak Latin, and you don't." Here's how to use these words and phrases. Suppose you want to say: "Peruvians would like to order appetizers more often, but they don't have enough money." You never win argument talking like that. But you WILL win if you say, "Let me put it this way. In terms of appetizers vis-a-vis Peruvians quo Peruvians, they would like to order them more often, so to speak, but they do not have enough money per se as it were. Q.E.D." Only a fool would challenge that statement.

Use Snappy and Irrelevant Comebacks

You need an arsenal of all-purpose irrelevant phrases to fire back at your opponents when they make valid points. The best are:

You're begging the question.
You're being defensive.
Don't compare apples to orange.
What are your parameters?

This last one is especially valuable. Nobody other than engineers and policy wonks has the vaguest idea what "parameters " means. Here's how to use your comeback:
You say: "As Abraham Lincoln said in 1873..." Your opponent says: "Lincoln died in 1865." You say: "You're begging the question."
You say: "Liberians, like most Asians.. ," Your opponent says: "Liberia is in Africa." You say: "You're being defensive."

Compare Your Opponent to Adolf Hitler

This is your heavy artillery, for when your opponent is obviously right and you are spectacularly wrong. Bring Hitler up subtly. Say: "That sounds suspiciously like something Adolf Hitler might say." or "You certainly do remind me of Adolf Hitler."

So that's it. You now know how-to out-argue anybody. Do not try to pull any of this on people who generally carry weapons.

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