Log onto your Facebook feed and you won’t have to search long to find people arguing in the comment section of a recent news article or editorial. I’d ask you to take a moment and examine the tone of the voices you find there, but you’d have to be living in a cave not to know already — nearly everyone on the internet, apparently, has no idea how to argue like an adult.
Sure, some of these disagreements start out ok, but the vast majority of even these tend to devolve into virtual shouting matches, with at least one party, at the worst, ending up insulting the other’s mother or using racial epithets when they run out of “valid” points to make.
Obviously, progress can’t be made when people on either side of an argument are so stuck in their ways that they can’t see things from the other’s point of view. And progress certainly won’t be made when both parties enter an argument with the sole purpose of proving their point.
Only when disagreements are handled in a mature fashion can we, as a worldwide community of human beings, grow together. Here are 4 differentiating points that let you know you’ve learned how to argue effectively (as in, like a mature adult and not a child).
1) Mature Arguments Are Calm; Childish Arguments Are Frantic
When people enter a mature argument, they do so with the understanding that, obviously, both sides disagree with each other on a fundamental level. But they both remove their own “selves” from the situation, and focus solely on the issue at hand. There are no attacks on a person’s character, and neither side gets their back up — even when they are proven wrong.
On the other hand, childish arguments are like those, as mentioned, that you’ll find in the comments section on pretty much any YouTube video out there.
You’ll notice when a discussion goes south because someone was proven incorrect and will immediately begin attacking the other party on a personal level. Rather than conceding defeat in a certain area and backing up the overall argument with other facts, they’ll simply start berating their opposition through any means possible.
Obviously, nothing good will ever come of such a situation.
2) Mature Arguments Are Based on Facts and Logic; Childish Arguments Are Based on Emotions and Falsehoods
A mature debate is properly prepared for. Both sides will come to the table with previously agreed-upon facts, and will use logic to explain the validity of their point of view. These debates are air-tight, in that each point made is supported by inarguable facts and details which further explain why each party sees the issue in the way they do.
This is not to say that mature arguments aren’t emotionally charged — there certainly is passion behind each party’s perspective. But when you have the ability to argue like an adult, those emotions don’t get the better of you and take control of the words coming out of your mouth.
Those who haven’t learned how to argue like an adult, however, are incredibly uninformed and unprepared, and more often than not end up getting “schooled” by the party that has done its research and has some real insight into the subject matter at hand.
While mature debaters are able to answer the question of why they feel a certain way, immature debaters will fall back on often illogical statements like “it’s how things have always been” or “it’s the way it should be.” This is akin to asking a child why they like Spongebob and them answering “because.”
If a full-grown adult isn’t able to explain the reasoning behind his argument, chances are he’s never given any thought to why he believes what he believes.
3) Mature Arguments Seek to Understand Opposing Viewpoints; Childish Arguments Shut Out Other Perspectives.
Mature debaters aren’t egotistical. They genuinely want to understand exactly how an opponent sees a certain topic or area of discussion. Not only might they ask probing questions of their opponent, but they’ll also truly listen to what they have to say.
And although they come to the table with a certain viewpoint or perspective, mature debaters aren’t above learning something from the people they’re arguing against.
When childish people argue, they completely ignore the possibility that the opposing viewpoint may be valid in some way or another. They ask questions only in an attempt to flabbergast their opponent, but never actually listen to the answer. The only listening they actually do is to realize when the other person has stopped speaking, so they can resume shouting their side of the argument. They don’t come to a debate to learn; they come to make their voice heard.
4) Mature Arguments Seek a Common Ground; Childish Arguments Are All About Winning.
While the purpose of any debate is to prove a specific point, mature debaters come to the table knowing there is a slim chance of truly convincing their opponent to completely give up their beliefs and admit they have been wrong all along.
Instead, they come to a debate hoping to find a consensus which both sides can agree upon. Mature arguments aren’t about changing an opposing side’s beliefs as much as it is helping them see from a different perspective. Sometimes, both debaters even realize they actually agree with one another in some aspects, but hadn’t looked at an issue from a certain way until their opponent gave them the ability to see it from such a perspective.
Childish debaters enter arguments, whether they realize it or not, with the sole purpose of “being right,” as if their point of view is the one single truth handed down by God himself.
While mature debaters enter arguments trying to teach others for the good of humanity as a whole, childish debaters only want their opponent to concede defeat so they can do a victory dance and rub it in everyone’s face.
Thankfully, though, because of the other aspects of childish arguments we previously discussed, this is very rarely the outcome.