Arguments become heated and get out of hand when anger enters into the equation, often leaving both parties frustrated and upset. Using Socratic questioning in an argument can help people see things from your perspective without causing unnecessary conflict.
Picture: Ben Crowe/Flickr
Rather than making points, the Socratic method concentrates on asking questions to help both parties think about the situation rather than just verbalise their (often exaggerated) feelings. Redditor darkcity2 explains:
[L]et's say your girlfriend is angry about you coming home late one night. She says, "You didn't call me! I was so worried, and you were probably out at the bar hitting on girls!" You could respond, "No baby, I wasn't, I swear." But effectively this is two heads butting; the one with greater force wins. Instead, ask questions. This puts you in a position of control without being aggressive, and forces the listener to accept their own hypocrisy/flawed reasoning. Say something like: "Why are you upset? What do you think I was doing? Is it that I'm late that bothers you, or that you can't trust me?" Rather than arguing back and forth, you're encouraging her to express how she feels, and it seems like you're making an effort to listen. Eventually she'll either forgive you, or you'll see that you were wrong, or she'll see that she was being unreasonable.
I gave a very sexist example, but this works for heated debates as well. Rather than saying, Animals aren't meant to be in captivity, say, Do you think animals were meant to be in captivity? Wording your point of view in the form of a question forces them to see it from your perspective whether they like it or not, because a question psychologically puts them in a position where they have to answer it.
It's a pretty simple idea and an easy conflict resolution tactic. Next time you find yourself in an argument, give the Socratic method a shot.