Have you ever heard a friend, colleague, or even a boss make a brilliant argument that blew you away?
It could be to negotiate a new deadline with a boss or just to get the best deal from a shopkeeper.
It could also be a telemarketer trying to convince you to buy an insurance plan, a CEO selling a new company strategy, or a politician trying to convince people to vote for him.
Everybody encounters good—and bad—arguments in their lives. But do you ever stop and wonder what makes them good arguments?
Quite simply, a good argument is cogent and based on a strong premise. If it's not sound and cogent, it's just a bad argument.
The power of crafting a good argument is invaluable and even more so at work. Whether you’re a politician, a CEO, or a salesman, the ability to make a good argument is a surefire recipe for success.
Why? A good argument lies at the heart of critical thinking, a key skill in the modern workplace and life in general. It helps you make quick decisions and solve problems effectively.
To understand the power of a good argument let’s look at a politician known for the quality of her arguments: US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC as she is called.
The former bartender worked her way up to become the youngest Congressman in the US last year and has since emerged as the voice of many hot-button issues from poverty to gender and racial disparities.
What makes AOC such a popular politician? The answer lies in her fierce rhetoric and well-structured arguments backed by solid facts.
How AOC Makes Effective Arguments
AOC's speeches fulfill the five essential principles of a good argument according to American philosopher Edward Damer. These are:
- Structure: An argument should be well structured and backed by facts
- Relevance: An argument should be relevant to the conclusion
- Acceptability: An argument’s reasons should be acceptable and easily verifiable
- Sufficiency: An argument should have enough supporting facts to lend weight to it
- Rebuttal: An argument should be aware of any weaknesses and potential criticism to rebut any opposition
Let’s take a closer look at these principles through one of AOC’s speeches. She recently made headlines for calling out Florida Representative Ted Yoho’s gendered and abusive comments about her.
As his comments snowballed into a big controversy, Yoho denied any sexist slur and said his comments had been misconstrued. He added that “having been married for 45 years with two daughters, I’m very cognizant of my language”.
AOC responded with an extraordinary speech in the House of Representatives that made a measured and powerful argument. She began by saying the problem wasn’t about one incident.
“It is cultural. It is a culture of lack of impunity, of accepting of violence and violent language against women, and an entire structure of power that supports that,” she said in the speech that went viral.
After looking at the broader problem, she turned to Yoho’s defense that he could never be abusive towards women because he had a wife and daughter.
She pointed out that she was somebody’s daughter too and this was yet another example of men using their female family members as “shields and excuses for poor behavior”. Simply having a wife or daughter “does not make a man decent”, she said. “Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man.”
She concluded by saying that she didn’t expect another apology from Representative Yoho. “Clearly, when given the opportunity, he will not, and I will not stay up late at night waiting for an apology from a man who has no remorse over calling women and using abusive language toward women,” she said.
AOC’s comments were not just well structured, they were also relevant. She clearly stated her problem with Representative Yoho’s speech and used his comments to make her argument. She ensured she used easily verifiable evidence to prove that Yoho’s language and conduct towards her were unacceptable. And finally, she ensured a rebuttal for every argument and potential counter-argument by Representative Yoho.
You can never underestimate the power of making good arguments. It helps you think critically and make smart decisions at work and in life. Harappa Education’s Thinking Critically course helps you fashion a good argument by separating fact from fiction and also teaches you the power of counterargument. Sign up today to hone your critical thinking skills.
Shubhayan is an Associate Specialist in the Curriculum Team. A graduate of the Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, Shubhayan enjoys laughing at his own jokes and playing the bass guitar.
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