Use The Socratic Method To Easily Win Arguments

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.

Use Socratic questioning as a way to defend your position/win arguments/get people to see things from your perspective [Reddit]


    Not to disrespect the use of this method, but it doesn't actually 'win' the argument. ;)

    What do you think you would need to do to "win" the argument?

      Do you think you need to "win" this argument?

      How does that make you feel to ask that question?

        And you for asking that question?

    To 'win' an argument needs evidence which is not always practicable. I suppose an argument needs a type of reflective listening where you don't have to have a solution. Just listen and hear out the other party. Asking questions shows the flawed logic or at least helps the other party think things through.

    This seems like it may be of more use in situations which call for conflict resolution, rather than in situations of reasonable debate in which "winning" does not cause anger or resentment.

    But excellent tip, I'll remember and use this one for sure :)

    Last edited 20/01/13 12:16 am

    what if you come across a stonewaller? then what?

      Kill them.

    I hate to be _that_ guy, but that's not quite the point of the Socratic method. Used most effectively, one party will keep asking simple questions (often yes/no), in order to bring their opponent to a paradox. The "winning" happens when one party concedes that the logic they were defending is flawed... There's actually nothing easy about this, as you need to spot the flaw in the logic first, and then draw them towards that. My two cents :)

    All we are.. Is dust in the wind dude.

    Dust!... Wind! .. . . DUDE!!

    Just FYI intelligent people do this naturally and its not actually guaranteed to achieve a better outcome. In fact you may seem condescending and that can result in you getting stabbed in the shoulder by a screwdriver by a co-worker.

    No it isn't.

      Endless refutation is not an argument.

    In my experience, being reasoned, logical and rational doesn't work with some people and some questions / problems. Some people (and I'm guess it may actually be the majority out there) just don't think like that.

    There are also scenarios with so many levels of wrongness that it's not worth the effort trying to inject reason into the discussion or argument.

    (For example - try to convince someone in the middle of an acute psychosis that the television isn't projecting secret messages into their brain - good luck.)

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