How to Argue Fairly and Without Rancor (Hello, Thanksgiving!)
If the 2016 presidential election has shown us anything, it’s that it sometimes seems as if opposing views can never be reconciled.
In the days since Donald J. Trump has been elected president, thousands of angry people have protested in at least 52 cities across the United States. At a Brooklyn restaurant, a male Trump supporter punched a female supporter of Hillary Clinton’s after they argued about politics, The Daily News reported.
唐纳德·J·特朗普(Donald J. Trump)当选总统后的这几天里，在全美至少52个城市，成千上万愤怒的民众举行了抗议。《每日新闻》(The Daily News)报道，在布鲁克林一家餐厅，特朗普的一名男性支持者在和希拉里·克林顿(Hillary Clinton)的一名女性支持者就政见展开辩论后，对其大打出手。
And it’s clear that American Thanksgiving gatherings are sure to be interesting affairs this year, as families split between Trump and Clinton supporters try to sit down to dinner without maiming one another — if they show up at all.
So this may be a good time to explore what psychologists and philosophers say are the most effective ways to argue. And by “argue” they do not mean “quarrel,” but communicate without rancor or faulty reasoning with someone who has an opposing viewpoint, with the hope of broadening one’s understanding of people and ideas.
Here are a few suggestions:
The aim of an argument should not be proving who is right, but conveying that you care about the issues, said Amy J. C. Cuddy, a social psychologist and associate professor at Harvard University.
哈佛大学社会心理学家、副教授艾米·J·C·卡迪(Amy J. C. Cuddy)说，辩论的目的不应是证明谁是对的，而是传递出你关心相关问题这个信息。
Show the person with whom you are speaking that you care about what he or she says.
The goal should be to state your views and to hear theirs. It should not be: “I am not leaving until you admit that you are wrong, or here is what I believe, and I am not budging from this,” said Dr. Cuddy, who has explored the question in Business Insider columns.
And when you listen, go all in. “Don’t half-listen while figuring out what you’re going to say next,” said Gary Gutting, a philosopher at Notre Dame.
听的时候，要全身心投入。“不要一边似听非听一边考虑自己接下来说什么，”圣母大学(Notre Dame)哲学家加里·古廷(Gary Gutting)说。
Don’t ‘Drop the Anchor’
Some people start an argument by staking their position and refusing to budge, an impulse that Dr. Cuddy called “dropping the anchor.”
Instead, try to understand the other person’s point of view; it does not mean you have to agree with him or her, or that you are abandoning deeply felt objections to, for example, racism or sexism, she said.
“Think of it from a courage perspective: I can go in and I am going to ask questions that are truly, honestly aimed at increasing my understanding of where he or she is coming from,” Dr. Cuddy said. “How did they get there, and what is leading to that?”
Mind Your Body Language
Your body language can send messages that are more compelling than the words coming out of your mouth.
Try to avoid gestures that are patronizing or defensive, like crossing your arms or clenching your jaw.
Maintain eye contact in a way that is not a stare-down.
Lean forward slightly to show you are interested.
And no eye-rolling, Dr. Gutting said.
Don’t Argue to Win
Dr. Gutting says it helps to use neutral or charitable language when acknowledging opposing viewpoints, especially during arguments over politics. It lays the groundwork for a more effective argument on points of genuine weakness.
Don’t think of an argument as an opportunity to convince the other person of your view; think of it as a way totest and improve your opinions, and to gain a better understanding of the other side.
It is rarely productive to nitpick errors in your interlocutor’s remarks or to argue just to “win.”
“People do give up views because of rational arguments against them,” Dr. Gutting said in the interview. “But this is almost always a long process, not the outcome of a single decisive encounter.”
In his book “How to Argue About Politics,” Dr. Gutting writes that, in many political arguments, the people we think we “convince” almost always already agree with us.
在《如何辩论政治问题》(How to Argue About Politics)一书中，古廷写道，在很多政治辩论中，我们自认为能“说服”的人，几乎总是已经准备好同意我们的观点。
Know the Facts
A good argument is supported by evidence, but that is just a starting point. Sometimes, especially with political back-and-forths, one side will look only at evidence supporting its own position, conveniently leaving out the full picture, Dr. Gutting noted.
(This is called the fallacy of incomplete evidence. Here is an extensive list of fallacies, or unsound reasoning.)
“An effective argument would have to take account of all the relevant evidence,” he said.
Speak and Listen Fearlessly
George Yancy, a philosophy professor at Emory University who has written extensively about race, was asked by a student this year why he even bothered to discuss race with white supremacists.
埃默里大学(Emory University)的哲学教授乔治·扬希(George Yancy)撰写了大量有关种族问题的文章。今年，一名学生问他为什么还要费心和白人至上主义者讨论种族问题。
Dr. Yancy said he told his student there was a need to inform white people about how African-Americans think about race.
“This is a moment when we are not just talking past each other, but against each other,” Dr. Yancy said in a telephone interview, speaking about the current national climate.
“So for me, the condition for a conversation has to be that you are unafraid to speak courageously, and you are unafraid to tell your partner exactly what it is that you think about the world.”
But a two-way argument also requires fearless listening, “even if it is me talking to a white supremacist who is trying to tell me that I am inferior,” he added. “One of the conditions for the possibility of a fruitful argument is to allow for some kind of opening up in myself to hear.”
Sometimes it takes a painful step to find common ground, Dr. Yancy said.
“What you need to be able to do is to speak the same language,” he said. “They believe in God, and you would say: ‘You and I believe the same thing. How is it that this God who loves you can’t possibly love me?’ Is it possible that we can agree to disagree on some issues?”