Deceiving Argument Patterns

I am not one of the best people to win an argument (especially not with a female counterpart) but through the nature of my job, I get to interact with people on a daily basis and observe nuances in the art of negotiation. I wanted to share with you some of these patterns that I have noticed to be used against me ... and this would hopefully help you in refuting your opposition.

  • Appeal to Consequences:
    Generally a person will push you to believe that the idea/argument is True/False just because the consequences of it being True/False is desirable/undesirable. The fallacy here is that correlating the desirability of the conclusion should not be linked to the truthfulness of the idea/argument ... it might be considered as a wishful thinking scenario - appealing to your hopes rather to an actual evidence.

    An Example:

    The Solution has to work, what other choice do we have.
    (You see how the phrasing of this sentence can dangerously manipulate your mind set that the "solution" is claimed to be True).

    • False Dilemmas:
      Like in the case of the excluded middle ground. Things can either be black or white.

      An Example:

    You are either with the team or you are against us.
    (When in fact one can have a third option of being "Neutral" or even a fourth option "Against both" or even agrees with things from both sides).

    • Convenient Generalizations: 
      A manipulative fallacy where someone would generalize from a sample that is too small or too special to represent a population - drawing from it bigger outcomes.

    • It is important to differentiate between what they term as:
      • Rational Reason to Believe (RRB): actual evidence that supports the claim.
      • Prudential Reason to Believe (PRB): merely motivation that some external factor (fear, or harm ..etc.) relevant to a person's values justify the claim.

    And this may lead us to discuss what is called the "Degree of Cogency" of an argument; which is the extent to which an argument is sound enough based on the merit that it is founded on good logic. Things are not black nor white - things can vary from; Certainty (Absolute truth), to probability, to plausibility, to possibility (a trace of truth).

    All the above is great - but some people are just too stubborn - they play a totally different game. In a normal scenario a valid argument moves from premises to conclusions - in a logical and consistent way (obviously premises need to be correct/valid, in order for the argument to represent the truth) - and it's still fine that some people might genuinely feel their premises are correct (even if it's not) and slowly arrive at some sort of agreement with counterparts through the above flow. 
    However, some people intend to throw all that out the window and use illogical and frustrating arguments to distort, manipulate or even avoid the matter all together (Yes, we all know those people in our lives - Just because he is batman - then Batman is always right).

    Some of the patterns used here can revolve around:

    • Offering Irrelevancy: carrying an argument beyond its reasonable limit.
    • Arguing in a circle: (we see this one all the time) where one assumes as a premise for the argument the very conclusion that one intends to prove (same - same). e.g. "I have a right to say what I want, therefore you shouldn’t try to silence me”
    • Ignoring the issue all together: (these are the ******) that jump from one argument to the next hoping to win one - and declare success on everything else.

    But it's one thing to pick up these patterns and a total other thing to counter it. Persuasion is clearly one of the hardest things to master. Clearly some of the best methods used to persuade people are:

    • Solid Evidence: Google it (yes, take out your phone) use numbers and statistics to back up your opinions.
    • Timing: do more of the listening than the talking (Silence gives you more control - those gazing eyes 0.0).
    • Length: longer replies can generally sound more convincing (but don't over do it).
    • Respect: remember that you are critiquing the matter not the person.
    • Be a HUMAN BEING. Be the bigger person in every situation.

    One last thing, I picked up off Warren Buffet in one of his interviews when he was asked about his work partner (Charlie Munger) and he said he never ever had a single argument with him. They disagreed - but never argued. Which to me sounds mind boggling, how 2 partners of a USD 400 Billion fund never argue. And he goes on to say that when they disagree his partner will always end it by saying: "Well, you'll end up agreeing with me because you're smart and I'm right".

    I love how they argue/debate with grace and that's something a lot of people lack.

    In Arabic we have a saying "الاختلاف في الرأي ...لا يفسد للود قضية"
    Which in English would mean something in the lines of; "The difference in opinions ... does not spoil the friendliness of the case (both parties)"


    Source: XKCD

    Source: XKCD

    A good friend just told me that the key to a successful marriage was to argue naked
    — Leann Rimes, Singer

    Ali Darwish

    Business Development, Hyflux | an entrepreneur at heart | inspiring presenter | graphic designer | challenge junky | dreamer