How to Make a Good Argument

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Whenever you get into an argument, whether you're discussing politics with a colleague or the distribution of chores with your spouse, you likely feel like you're floundering. You feel worked up, but you don't feel like you're getting your point across, much less convincing the other person of it, and the conversation simply goes in circles. You can feel like a rank amateur at arguing.

Maybe what you need are some pro tips from someone who's spent his life arguing competitively. Enter my guest: Bo Seo. Bo is a two-time world champion debater, a former coach of the Australian national debating team and the Harvard College Debating Union, and the author of Good Arguments: How Debate Teaches Us to Listen and Be Heard. Today on the show, Bo and I discuss why learning the art of rhetoric and debate was once an integral part of education in the West, why the subject disappeared from schools, and the loss this has represented for society. We then turn to the lessons Bo's taken from his debating career that you can apply to your own everyday arguments, whether big or small. Bo explains why it's important to establish what an argument is really about before you start into it, and shares a rubric for homing in on which of three types of disagreements may be at the core of a conflict. He then explains two things a strong argument has to do, and four questions to ask yourself to see if you’ve met these requirements. Bo also unpacks his three P's for creating persuasive rhetoric and how to effectively rebut someone else’s claims. We end our conversation with how to determine when it’s worth getting into a particular argument and when it's better to walk away.

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