How to Win Arguments with Honesty

Honesty and truthfulness are not the same thing. Being honest means not telling lies. Being truthful means actively making the full matter known.

Practically speaking, you cannot be completely truthful, because there’s always some aspect or the other that you might miss unintentionally. On top of that, being absolutely truthful doesn’t make you persuasive at all. The good thing is that it’s absolutely possible to be honest and still be persuasive enough to win arguments.

For example, a lawyer is expected to be honest in their dealings, but not necessarily be truthful all the time. A criminal defence lawyer has no obligation to actively present the truth in defending a client. They may not deliberately mislead the court (which counts as dishonesty), but they have no obligation to tell the complete story of the defendant. The same applies in business deals as well.

What most people don’t understand is that you don’t have to put forward the best case in order to win arguments. You just have to be slightly better than your opponent.

You see, winning arguments is an important criteria in order to gain power, but it’s absolutely useless in terms of our personal growth. Therefore, our goal is to win arguments as fast as possible (with full honesty), and move on without wasting time.

A strong argument requires logic, yes, but there’s no requirement for any sort of pure reasoning that promises an absolute conclusion.

A strong argument is one that aims to establish one claim as more probable or more reasonable than the other. You goal isn’t to find the truth via your arguments (that’s what discourse are for), you simply claim and make it obvious that your version (of the truth) is more probable than your opponent’s.

There are two types of reasoning or logic: deductive and inductive.

Deductive Reasoning: Using broadly accepted truths toward demonstrating a truth in a specific situation. For example, when Apple suffered from bad PR due to Antennagate, Steve Jobs used a deductive logic to make his point. “We’re not perfect. Phones are not perfect. We all know that. But we want to make our users happy.” Nobody could disagree with that.

Inductive Reasoning: Using specific examples of truth to demonstrate a larger truth. For example, two founders I know got VC funding very easily since they went to IIT. Thus, I think most (if not all) founders who are from IIT get funded very easily. It’s not as powerful as deductive reasoning since you need a large and non-random sample size to persuade others.

But logic and reasoning can only take you so far, unless we introduce some empathy into our arguments. You see, reasoning provides logical justification whereas empathy provides a human connection, without which it’s almost impossible to make an impactful case.

An argument may be extraordinarily rational, but its correctness alone is unlikely to compel others to care enough. Similarly, an extremely passionate argument may initially attract sympathy, but too much display of emotion at the expense of rationality will prompt others to tune out what you are trying to say.

Both logic and empathy are needed to advance an argument, but an abundance of one will not compensate for a lack of the other.

Logic and reasoning makes an argument worthy. Empathy and passion makes it worthwhile.

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