Ask yourself the following:
Do you want to win the debate or actually change minds? Winning an argument is easy, persuading others to change their views is far more difficult.
Here are some guidlines for presenting your view in a persuasive manner:
1. Respect Your Audience
This guideline may sound idealistic, but it is eminently practical. If you believe the people you are trying to persuade are doltish or intellectually dishonest, you are bound to betray that belief, if not directly then indirectly in your tone or choice of words. Moreover, they will generally sense your disparaging view of them and feel hurt or resentful, hardly the kind of reaction that will make them open to persuasion.
But aren’t some people doltish or intellectually dishonest? Of course.The point is, you have no business thinking them so without clear and convincing evidence. If you have such evidence, don’t write for that audience. If you lack such evidence, as is usually the case, you should give your audience the benefit of the doubt. Ask yourself what might account for their disagreement with your view. Consider all the factors that can influence a person’s perspective, including age, gender, race, ethnicity, family background, religion, income level, political affiliation, degree of education, and personal experience. If one or more of these could account for the difference in viewpoint, you will have good reason for regarding their disagreement as thoughtful and honest.
A caution is in order here: Don’t feel you need to state your respect for your audience. Such statements have a way of sounding insincere. Work on acting respectfully; if you can accomplish that, there will be no need to state it. It will show.
2. Understand Your Audience’s Viewpoint
Many people make the mistake of thinking that knowing their own viewpoint is all that is necessary to be persuasive. “What my audience thinks about the issue is really irrelevant,” they reason. “All that matters is what I’m going to get them to think.” In addition to being pompous, this attitude ignores two crucial points. First, people’s views matter very much to them, and when others refuse to acknowledge this fact they feel offended. Second, we must know where people stand before we can hope to reach them.
3. Begin With A Position You Have In Common With Your Audience
Beginning from a position of agreement with your audience is not an arbitrary requirement or a matter of courtesy or good form. It is a simple matter of psychology. If you begin by saying—in effect, if not directly—”Look here, you are wrong, and I’m going to show you,” you push your audience to defensive if not outright hostile reactions. They are likely to hear the rest of your comments thinking not of what you are saying but of ways to refute it, concerned with measuring only the weaknesses of your argument. And if they are unreasonable and unbalanced in their reading, the fault will be more yours than theirs.
4. Take A Positive Approach
Whenever possible, build your case rather than tearing down the opposing case. To say you should never expose the weaknesses of the opposing side of the issue would be an oversimplification, and a foolish one at that. There are times when examining such weaknesses is the only responsible course of action. Keep in mind, however, that direct criticism of the opposing view will always seem harsher than it is to people who share that view, a brief criticism will seemprotracted, and the mere perception that you are being negative will make your readers defensive. The solution is not to be so timid that you don’t say anything meaningful but to be sensitive to your audiences’ reactions.
Whenever you can avoid direct refutation—that is, whenever you can effectively present and support your own views without direct reference to your reader’s opposing views—do so.
5. Understate Your Argument Whenever Possible
The sharpest points of disagreement between you and your readers should always be approached most carefully. These points represent the greatest obstacle to persuasion. If you overstate your position, you are bound to reinforce your readers’ conviction about their position rather than dispose them to question their conviction.
6. Concede Where The Opposing Side Has A Point
The natural tendency of all of us to value our own position too highly makes it difficult for us to admit that opposing views may also have merit. Overcoming this tendency can be accomplished only by remembering that in most controversial issues no one side possesses the total truth. If you can approach controversial issues with this thought, you are likely to grasp more of the total truth and to attract reasonable people to your position. Total commitment to the truth obliges us, moreover, to concede not grudgingly, but gladly and without hesitation. This does not mean placing a single short sentence at the beginning of the composition that says, “Everyone is right in some degree; I suppose you are too,” and then launching into your own position. It means a specific and, if space permits, detailed explanation of where, how, and why the opposing viewpoint is correct.
Remember that your audience is likely to be no more generous to you than you are to them. Only if you are open and honest in your concessions can you expect them to be so in theirs.
7. Don’t Ignore Relevant Facts
In studying an issue, we sometimes uncover facts that support the opposing position rather than our own. The temptation is strong to ignore them, especially if the other person has apparently not discovered them. Using them, it would seem, could only weaken our position. However, the purpose of argument is not to defeat others but, through the exchange of views, to discover the truth in all its complexity. When that happens, everyone wins. When any part of the truth is hidden, no one wins, even though it may appear that someone does. By presenting all the facts, even those that force you to modify your position, you impress your readers with your objectivity and honesty and invite them to show theirs.
8. Don’t Overwhelm Your Audience With Arguments
9. Focus On The Argument Best Calculated To Persuade Your Audience
Different arguments appeal to different readers. Just as it is important to understand your readers’ viewpoints on the issue, it is important to use arguments that will appeal to them. To ignore their frames of reference and choose arguments that you yourself find persuasive is a mistake.
10. Allow Time For Your View To Gain Acceptance
It may be tempting to believe that when you present your view, your audience will immediately abandon their own and embrace yours. That expectation is unrealistic. Except in rare cases, the best you should hope for is that they will be moved to reconsider the issue in light of what you said and that your insights eventually will cause them to modify their view. The fact that “eventually” may turn out to be next week or next year rather than five minutes from now is not necessarily a comment on your skill in persuading others. It may merely reflect the reality that the bonds people form with their opinions are not easily broken.
Points were taken from: Beyond Feelings: A Guide To Critical Thinking / 9th Edition / Author: Vincent Ryan Ruggiero / Publisher: McGraw-Hill / 2012