In An Argument, Give Your Opponent the Benefit of the Doubt and You Will Always Win

….in the sense that, you will be more likely to win your opponent’s trust and respect, your own arguments will be better, and you will surely learn something, even if you fail to convince the other.

Among the feedback to a recent essay (a critique), I came across this sort of statement: ‘well, what do you expect? Of course, the author’s a so-and-so, and therefore, you can expect them to be full of it.’

That’s pure intellectual laziness, let alone empty bigotry. Here’s one of the single most valuable lessons I’ve learned over the years, and practiced and honed in my return to university: always, always listen to your opponent’s arguments carefully and respectfully, and examine them from the viewpoint that they might be right. You will then be in a position to actually understand the argument. And, if it turns out to be wrong, then you will really understand why, and your rebuttal will be more likely to be a quality one, less prone to fallacies.

Generosity pays off for everyone in the end.

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