To win in a dispute means to enrich your understanding of an issue through exchange of opinions. The debate winner does not have to defeat the opponent. You will win anyway by improving argumentation, by upgrading the value of matters discussed.

First and foremost, you should recognize whether or not the dispute is worth your involvement. Your time is precious, so don’t lose it on futile and frustrating things.

Both winning in and deciding on arguing can be considerably assisted by the pyramid created by Paul Graham. This legendary American businessman published a number of works on essential strategies for success. One of his publications named “How to Disagree” ranks the arguments possible in any contention. The resulting hierarchy, if used properly, will help you benefit from most of your verbal fights.

1. Direct provocation in the form of an offense or insult.

In such case, you are at the bottom of Graham’s pyramid. If you hear something like “idiot”, “piece of shit” or “faggot”, your opponent is definitely trying to ignite negative emotions in you. The reason is lack of reasoning to convince you. Be strong enough not to respond. Such debate will not give you anything good.

2. Resorting to personal critics.

“You are acting stupidly, as you always do”
Such version of an argument is the second one from bottom to top in the pyramid. At this level, personal specific features, such as appearance or character, are under attack. As at the previous stage, such debate tactics show poor logical background or reasoning. You may continue the dispute. Just show that you acknowledge your drawbacks.

3. Claiming the tone in the discussion.

“You are turning up the heat!” “How dare you!” “I won’t speak with you toning up!”
Actually, not only the tone, but also your wording may be claimed. Such twist in your discussion may signalize your opponent’s wish to complete the argument. And again, this is marks the deficiency of points to substantiate the opposite point of view. This version at least enables you either to win the dispute or to reach a compromise. If your speech is actually toned up, you may tone it down.

4. Denial.

“You are lying now”, “You haven’t got it”, “You are completely mistaken”
The denial or direct contradiction technique works for those who have no more than mere negation. By doing so, they avoid substantial reasoning. You might feel that the person is deaf to your arguments.

Don’t give up if you want to defeat your opponent. Call him or her repeatedly to display
his/her reasons.

5. Counter-evidence.

“I have real examples of the opposite”, “I was told …”, “I tried what you say but it didn’t work”
The fifth stage of the pyramid represents a constructive dispute. Your interlocutor signalizes the desire to negotiate. In such case, you should listen to the opposite arguments. By doing so, you will build a mutual bridge for common exchange of ideas.

6. Opponency.

“I will prove that you are mistaken”, “Listen to one example”
We are reaching the top of the pyramid. Whether you win or not, you will benefit from such variant of a dispute. You actually contribute to each other’s world outlook. You both widen the vision of the problem. Build a bridge for reciprocal consent by agreeing and approving. In this way, you are likely to gain the same.

7. Explicit refutation of the key point.

“I will substantiate the opposite with the following”, “Listen to the most recent updates to your outdated opinion”
You must be a lucky person to conduct such top-level discussions. However, at this stage it is important to respect and listen to each other. An essential criterion is a search for truth.

Generally, be grateful for any precious information which you may need in your future disputes.