How can I easily win a debate

How to win any discussion

  • Attack on a personal level

Who needs factual arguments when you can attack your opponent on a personal level. "Ad hominem" attacks destroy any conversation, but they put the other person on the defensive. It is particularly effective to accuse the other person of having dishonest motives.

"No wonder that you represent that, you would benefit financially from it yourself."

"You have never really worked in your life, how do you know?"

"As a lawyer, you're used to twisting facts."

What can you do about it? Do not respond to the attacks, do not defend yourself, but return to the content and ask for more objectivity.

  • Relocate the goal posts

"Moving the goalposts" - this is the name of a technique that is often used when you are about to lose an argument. It is often used by creationists who, in debates, demand evidence from proponents of evolutionary theory, then dismiss it as inadequate and declare that Charles Darwin's theory remains unproven. If a source is cited to support an argument, it is said that it is not credible or that it is just an individual opinion.

You can't win with it, but you can deny the other a victory. The best way to respond to this is to say, "I'll never convince you if you keep changing the rules of the game."

  • Distort the arguments

"Straw man argument" is the technique used when the opponent's positions are distorted and then argued against this "straw man". Anyone who advocates a tolerant attitude towards Islam is accused of supporting terrorism. Those who support borders for immigration get to hear that they want to drown refugees in the Mediterranean. "We can't let everyone in," is the straw man argument of the other side. Other sources are also gladly quoted and people then act as if this were the opinion of the opponent in the discussion and he was responsible for it.

It is not easy to respond well to this. Sentences like "I didn't say that" and "Please don't twist my words in my mouth" can help.

Statistics may paint a fairly accurate picture of reality, but stories sound a lot better. Whenever someone comes up with facts or figures, tell an anecdote that proves the opposite. The more touching the episode, the stronger its impact, even if it doesn't actually prove anything. Particularly when it comes to migration, individual cases are constantly brought into the debate in order to prove one's own position. There is talk of criminal refugees or immigrants who have learned German well and have a job.

The logical answer to this is, "That doesn't prove anything." But it often fizzles out. Sometimes it works better if you tell a different anecdote and explain why it is more relevant.

  • Make wrong comparisons

Every comparison is known to be limping, but that does not mean that it cannot be used effectively in discussions. Because people always think in analogies, and comparisons create a conceptual pattern that is no longer so easy to escape. Every state intervention in the economy, like the planned economy of the Soviet Union, and every economic liberalization is a new edition of Thatcherism. Anyone who needs a coffee to wake up in the morning ticks just like an alcoholic. By the way, the king of all comparisons is Adolf Hitler, especially on the Internet. According to the Godwin Act of 1990, any debate, if it is carried on long enough, ends up in a Nazi settlement.

What is the best way to react to this? _Difficult. "That can't be compared" is true, but it always sounds a little lame ...

  • Destroy the conversation

The worst, but often the most effective, strategy is to deliberately destroy the conversation. There are different ways to do this.

  • Interrupt the discussion partner at every opportunity and throw him out of his flow of speech and argument. This can also be done by asking questions like "What do you mean?" or "Do you think that's good?" It looks less aggressive, but it is.
  • Ask pointless questions that will make the opponent look stupid if they can't answer them. "Don't you know what Descartes said about it?"
  • Constantly contradict every statement, no matter how insignificant, and show through your posture that you consider everything you hear to be wrong and outrageous.
  • Use general phrases that are inconsistent: "Anyone with common sense will confirm ..."
  • Bite your way into small factual mistakes or slip of the tongue of your opponent and don't let go.

What to do? Point out to the opponent that you see through his tactics. If that doesn't help: break off the conversation.

  • Play the moralist

Morally charged outrage always goes down well in discussions. Whoever poses as the defender of human dignity, the protector of the weak or the savior of Western civilization, deprives his opponent of all ethical legitimacy. It is particularly effective when the accusation is made with a lot of emotion and sentences like "I can't believe that you represent something like that!" is accompanied. If a discussion gets into such an imbalance, factual arguments hardly stand a chance.

To counter this, one should get a little emotional oneself; that looks authentic. "You don't mean to blame me for thinking that?" can take the edge off the attack. But then you should quickly return to objectivity. (Eric Frey, August 31, 2018)