How (Not to) Win an Argument: A Neanderthal’s No-Brainer Guide

A Neanderthal Walks Into a Blog


Last week, an intriguing individual named Darwin emailed us to pitch a guest post on tried-and-true strategies for how to win an argument. Normally, we don’t accept guest posts, but we happened to be researching the topic of changing people’s minds for Consider This, so we figured, “Why not?”

Now we know why not.

Turns out Darwin’s a neanderthal. An actual neanderthal. He’s incredibly literate (and living) but, as you’ll see, also incredibly belligerent, offensive, and dangerous. His advice for winning an argument is the exact opposite of how we recommend you go about changing people’s minds.

But…

We’re guilty of acting like Darwin all the time when we disagree. The neanderthals inside our brains are hard to ignore. That’s what makes arguments so unproductive and changing people’s minds so difficult.

So we’re publishing Darwin’s post to show how absurd it is to act like a neanderthal and help ourselves remember to the opposite (…and because he threatened to bash our heads in if we didn’t).

Here it is.

Photo of Darwin in a suit
Darwin cleans up nice, but definitely doesn’t act that way. (Source: Flickr)

Winning an Argument Is Easy if You Do What I Say

by Darwin the Neanderthal

My Dearest Little Humans,

One of you Homo sapiens named Dale Carnegie once wrote, “Nine times out of ten, an argument ends with each of the contestants more firmly convinced than ever that he’s absolutely right.”

Ha!

Maybe nine out of ten of his arguments end that way. Whomever I argue with always ends up firmly convinced that I’m right. Eleven times out of ten.

I don’t get what your subspecies’ problem is. Winning arguments is easy. Listen up.

✓ Take your side and hold it

An argument is a verbal tug-of-war. Dig deep and hold your position and drag your opponent to your side until they’re convinced they’re wrong and you’re right.

Don’t concede a thing. Every move you make towards the middle ground is a small defeat. There is no grey area.

✓ Fiercely defend your beliefs

Never forget that you’re not just arguing for yourself but also on behalf of everyone else in your clan who shares your beliefs. Any damage you sustain damages them, too.

✓ Overwhelm your adversary

Every word is a punch to your foe’s feeble frame. And words don’t take energy likes punches do, so rain verbal blows on them mercilessly.

If they try to hit back with words of their own, hit faster and louder to overwhelm them.

✓ “But” In as Much as You Can

“But” is your greatest counterattack in an argument. Every “but” invalidates their idea and proves you know more than them.

✓ Say “You’re Wrong”

Here’s another hilariously stupid quote you silly humans like:

“If you want enemies, excel your friends; if you want friends, let your friends excel you.”

Rochefoucauld

That idiot French “philosopher” probably couldn’t even spell his own name.

Any friend you let “excel you” will treat you like you’re a dog and they’re the master. Don’t let it happen. “Excel them” by saying “You’re wrong” repeatedly and using condescension, contempt, and insults.

Insult their loved ones, too. “Your mom’s an inbred wooly mammoth” is my favorite.

✓ Never say, “I don’t know”

I’ve never had this problem, but if you ever find yourself in a situation where you don’t know the answer to a question your foe asks you, don’t admit it. Saying, “I don’t know” is as weak as saying, “You’re smarter than me.”

Get angry and tell them it’s a stupid question. Then turn the tables and ask them the same. They’ll often give you the answer! If their answer supports your beliefs, tell them you obviously knew it all along. If it doesn’t, insult them. (See previous strategy.)

✓ Get your opponent to see your point of view

“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”

Henry Ford

No wonder the Japanese automakers are eating Ford’s company’s lunch.

His stupid strategy is common amongst the other “experts” at changing people’s minds. Good news for you! The more your naive nemesis thinks from your point of view, the more likely they’ll confuse it with theirs and slowly realize yours is best.

For that same reason, never dare take their point of view.

✓ Shame them into conceding to your side

The more people you can demonstrate their stupidity in front of, the better. Peer pressure works like a charm. Plus, you get to demonstrate your superiority in front of others.

If you cannot round up an audience for your take-down, keep some of your strongest arguments to yourself. After you’ve given them a licking, go to the internet as fast as possible and blindside them on Twitter. Do it quickly. You must get the first word over your opponent in front of others.

✓ Gang up

Even better than making a fool of your foe in front of others is to enlist your fellow believers to gang up on them. The more people who believe the same thing you do, the more you’re obviously right and the faster you’ll win.

✓ Bury them with facts

Your asinine adversary doesn’t know their butthole from their mouth, so you must force-feed them the facts they need (in whichever hole you choose).

Facts are your greatest weapon. Nobody can argue with them by their very definition. They’re facts!

✓ Say, “I told you so”

That way, they’ll know to listen to you next time. 

If for some reason you want to be nice, it’s ok to also say “You’re welcome (…for teaching your stupid brain, idiot.)”

✓ Settle it then and there

Don’t let your ridiculous rival walk away until they admit complete and utter defeat. If they escape early they will seek disconfirming information to rebuild and reinforce the rubble that remains of their beliefs you destroyed. You’ll then have to waste your precious tearing it back down again next time.

✓ If they refuse to admit defeat, unfriend them

Don’t associate yourself with idiots who won’t adhere to your beliefs.

Anyone who refuses to accept anything you’ve hammered into their hard little heads is a lost cause. Unfollow them on social media and block their numbers on your phone. Warn your friends on your side to do the same.

✓ When all else fails, beat some sense into them

According to the authors of the hilariously satirical How to Have Impossible Conversations: A Very Practical Guide:

“People never change their beliefs by being punched in the head by someone who hates them.”

James Lindsay and Peter Boghossian

Yeah, only if you don’t punch hard enough.

✓ Always have the last word

Speaking of the last word. That’s all for me.

I told you that winning an argument is easy. You’re welcome,

Even if you are a caveman, you don’t have to act like one to change somebody’s mind.

Be Less of a Neanderthal

Everything Darwin recommends is bad advice. We strongly recommend you do the opposite to change people’s minds.

The simplest advice to win an argument?

Tame your inner neanderthal.

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Chris and Kim

Kim and Chris are exploring better ways to do... everything. Think, travel, exercise, work, relate, you name it. Every week-ish, we share a new idea in our newsletter, "Consider This."