Posted 11 January 2008 - 10:01 PM
• Is this subject worth arguing about?
• Have I gathered enough evidence to make an argument?
• Do I represent the views of my opponents in a way they would consider fair?
• Have I developed my argument logically?
• Is my use of evidence accurate?
• Have I tried to prove too much?
Rules for Fair Argument
1. Argue about something meaningful; interest and commitment to a trivial argument is unlikely. If you consistently choose to argue over trivial matters, others soon will learn to pay little attention; then, when a legitimately important issue arises, your input will have been negated.
2. Argue in the present tense; do not unnecessarily drag in the past. People who save the past for another day are "gunny- sacking," an unproductive practice. This practice only invites reciprocal behavior on the part of others which degenerates your arguments into a mud slinging exercise.
3. Argue about one event, behavior, want, need, expectation, or statement at a time; do not try to link items -- separate each one -- this is truly hard to do and it takes time; but it is a worthwhile strategy.
4. When an argument is over, agree that it's over -- done for good, never to be heard of again! Never try to reopen an old argument -- this is not only not fair, it is suicide; if you allow one old argument to be restarted, then your adversary is free to open others too. This cycle never ends!
5. Finish each argument you start -- do not leave an argument in mid-stream. Leaving an argument unfinished leaves parties vulnerable to it being reopened at a most inopportune time, place, and manner.
6. Argue without the aid of coaching, without employing allies. Otherwise, your arguments become "team" efforts. Such teams tend to grow and eventually you are just a pawn.
7. Argue honestly -- make no false or misleading claims, use no phony evidence, nor employ exaggerations.
8. Find a time when all parties are calm, available, and willing to argue -- some delay is OK to calm emotions, but not an elongated or manipulative delay.
9. Argue face-to-face; using phone calls, memos, letters, or third parties is not ethical nor are these tactics usually effective.
10. Avoid cheap-shot emotional tugs (ie: crying, shouting, threatening others, threatening suicide, and name-calling).
11. Keep your talk personalized (ie: use "I," "me," "my," "mine" not "you," "they," "them," "everyone,").
12. Keep argument subtopics relevant -- do not get sidetracked or try to change the subject.
13. Do not monopolize the argument; give others a chance to be an equal part.
14. Do not play guilt trips with the other party.
15. Directly respond to accusations; do not minimize, catastr ophize, or ignore them.
16. Describe, don't express emotions during the argument; if you cannot control yourself emotionally, call a time-out.
17. Claim and admit to your own feelings -- do not generalize or externalize them.
18. Label inferences as just that -- inferences are not facts, observations, or experiences; they are guesses, no matter how skilled.
19. Supply open, complete, and honest support for the claims that you make -- do not be evasive, coy, or "fuzzy" about what you mean.
20. Don't argue about everything. If everything is subject to a fight, then there is no real priority for the really important occurrences.
21. Do not start another argument right after one is over. This is not fair nor is it productive. It is likely to produce resentment.
22. Do not gloat over a victory or catastrophize a loss. Your behavior in other arguments is bound to influence how open and honest others are with you in future arguments.
23. Do not belabor points; when a point is made, agree on that and go on to the next point.
24. Avoid negatively charged and personally attacking terms (ie: fool, idiot, stupid, lazy, weird, crazy, ass-hole, free-loader, etc.)
25. Keep your language as clear, concrete, specific, and neutral as you can. If your adversary fails to do this, ask for clarification.