It’s All about Values in Successful Argumentation

Sometimes it feels like a rational, evidence-based argument simply doesn’t reach the opponents transceiver no matter what. And it doesn’t even have to be a particularly emotional being you are dealing with; it can just as well be another rational, fact-appreciating creature. Next, you’re scratching your head wondering why your argument isn’t being accepted.

In these situations it is probably values that clash. Even if there was a solution that would, according to rational evaluation, be the best one at the given situation, if it is contrary to my values, it is contrary to my thoughts.

If another system would be a little safer, but I value sparing highly, I will choose the cheaper one, regardless. If I value conservation of nature, it doesn’t matter that I would be at my destination a hundred times faster if I took a flight. I will still take the train. And even if it would be wise to save money at this point, if a social status and acceptance is important to me, I will purchase an expensive watch.

An act reveals the values behind our words

Our values become visible in our acts, because we have to pay for them. We often speak out loud how valuable this or that is to us. But if they don’t show in our actions, these things aren’t really valuable, but rather mere images of a person we would perhaps wish to be.

For instance, if good health is really my value, I don’t attend all the alcohol-infused get-togethers, but instead I will spend my Saturday morning exercising. But if social interaction means a lot to me, I sometimes sacrifice my health a little in order to join the party.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that if I once abandon my family home and go enjoy the nightlife, my family wouldn’t be important to me. Or if I once in a while feel good about eating pizza, health couldn’t matter to me. You can’t make assumptions about anyone’s values based on only one instance. But out of continuous, consistent behaviour, you can.

Values also show themselves in the moment of anger

As well as in actions, values can also be examined in the moment of anger. An angry person experiences that her values have been offended. If you listen closely, you will find a value hidden somewhere in the reaction of the other.

If a client is making noise about stretched schedules and slow replies to emails, she probably values punctuality. And if a person coming home is complaining how again there were a hundred people running around the footpath without wearing a reflector and at least ten doggy doos had been left unpicked, it tells you that he might appreciate consideration.

Of course, there are times when we get mad about something else than the thing that is actually troubling us. That’s why it’s important to try to get the angry person to speak a little bit more so that you get to the bottom of the actual worry.

Values are an ingredient in the argument

When you know the values of your opponent, you know how to choose your arguments in a way that they align with the value system. It’s no use telling a sparing person how fine and shiny a certain new object is. If it’s expensive, it’s expensive. Even the easiness and time-saving aren’t good enough arguments. A sparing person puts effort and spends time to save money.

For someone, who values time with family, a system that doesn’t crash on weekends or family vacations is probably desirable. But if this family person spends her evenings and weekends answering emails, it might be so that being a hardworking person is an even greater value to her than family. Then it’s worth mentioning that this system enhances effectiveness and brings better results.

The better you know the values of others, the easier it is to choose arguments that make you win your opponent over. And the better you know your own, the faster you realize if you’re trying to argument based on your own values, not the other’s.

TL;DR It’s beneficial to know your opponent’s values so that your arguments bring better results

  • Values become visible in the actions, or if a person gets angry.
  • Even if the argument was based on reason, if it’s contrary to my values, it’s contrary to my thoughts.
  • By knowing the values of the others, you can choose the arguments that make a difference to them.

Or what do you think?

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