How to Lose an Argument Gracefully

Being graceful under pressure is an art, and being able to put forth a gracious attitude even when someone has clearly gained the upper hand in an argument is to be admired and respected, even by the argument's winner.


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    Be objective. Once you remove your emotional attachment to your argument and look critically at what your opponent is saying, it may be that you begin to see things his way. Honestly re-evaluating your position regularly will help you to realize this early.
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    Say something that suggests you know you might be wrong or that your opponent might be winning. Examples: "You know, I think you might be right." "Hmm, you've really given me something to think about." "That's a point I hadn't considered before."
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    Concede the point. Tell your opponent, "Well, I'm sold," or "I admit your points are very well-taken, and I'm now persuaded to think it over some more. I do see your points, and I think I need to re-examine my opinion now."
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    Don't belabor the issue. It's even harder to win an argument gracefully than to lose one. Your opponent may enjoy gloating or doing some other sort of superiority dance after you concede. If the person arguing with you tries to push the win, just stay calm and smile. Tell them you'll talk to them again later if they want. Most people will leave it at that.
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    Don't throw a tantrum or resort to name calling.


  • Don't give in to the urge to throw a tantrum or pout. Smile and retain your dignity, despite the fact that you weren't able to make your case. The truth is, people rarely remember who was right or wrong later, but they will certainly remember any drama that occurred around the argument. They will also remember the fact that you were gracious and cool under pressure.
  • Losing gracefully can win you big points - if you show your willingness to hear others out without getting hostile and really, truly, honestly evaluate an argument, regardless of your initial opinions, others will come to truly respect your advice and counsel. They will know you have the ability to think critically without taking things personally rather than just making up your mind and then refusing to reconsider, dismissing the opinions of others and new information without even bothering to listen. If you get a reputation that says once you've made up your mind, it's set in stone, it makes you appear stubborn and narrow-minded.


  • Don't just roll over for a "Steamroller." There are lot of loud blowhards out there who just win points by wearing their opposition down. Rather than "letting" these jerks win by default (when you say, "Whatever" and walk away), call them on their stuff. Say something like, "Well, even though I'm willing to consider your points, it's very obvious that you aren't willing to extend me the same courtesy - being louder does not equal being right. Although you have some good points, it's impossible for me to make any points with you, because you shut me down every time I take issue with your position. Let's try again another time, when both of us have more patience and are more open to a two-way dialogue." Then walk away. Don't allow this person to chase after you and continue the argument. (Listen to Monty Python's "The Argument Clinic" for a humorous look at arguing.) Simply refuse to comment further on the subject. If you refuse to argue, your opponent will eventually give up and try to find another victim to bully.
  • Don't be condescending. People will know it and get annoyed with you.

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Categories: Managing Arguments