The Value of a Balanced Argument

It’s hard to convince someone to take your side by taking sides.

Think about it.  How often do you win an argument and have it end with:  “I was wrong.  You’ve changed my mind.” ?

When it happens, everyone’s surprised.

I have a moment in life I’ve ever-after named the “McDonald” moment after a college roommate I had a stupid, heated argument with.

It started with my refusal to take him to the airport on a Friday night.  I didn’t have plans, but assumed I would.  I said I’d prefer not to take him.

He blew-up.  Expletives.  Hated my guts.

After, my “moment” came when I realized how much easier it would have been to just drive him.  The negativity of the argument was far worse than giving up a Friday evening.

I apologized: “John, I was wrong.  I was a dick about this.”

Even after all this pettiness, my admission stunned him.

At a writing course I took at the University of Oregon, one of the major themes was learning how to make a balance argument.

Even in a persuasive piece, they taught us to explain both sides of the argument fairly and evenly.

Why?  Because the more effective way to change someone’s mind is to explain new alternatives without belittling their current views.  If McDonald stayed calm and expressed appreciation for me considering to help him, I would have strained to refuse.

As soon as the f-bombs shot, there was no way I was going to relent, even with a weak position.

A great example of balanced writing comes from Arnold Schwarzenegger with his thinking on climate change.

He wins the argument by building a very strong case that there is no argument.

That’s balanced persuasive writing.