Five Tips on Winning an Argument

This is how NYU Abu Dhabi's debate team silences its competition

The next time you're in a heated debate with your friends about politics or which TV show is the greatest of all time, use these strategies from David Kim, Class of 2020, to win your case. Kim is part of the NYU Abu Dhabi Debate Union team that has won several debate tournaments this semester. 

1. Be Comparative 

Both sides in a debate will have some good arguments. Win the upper hand by being comparative to prove why your argument outweighs the other side’s argument. Besides showing why your argument is true, present why the benefits of your side outweighs the benefits of the opposition, or why the harms of the opposition outweigh your harms. 

2. Ask Yourself “Why” Constantly 

After making a statement or a claim, ask yourself “why” to break it down to its most fundamental logical links. Your argument has to be proven with analysis, so asking “why” helps flesh out the analysis. Constantly asking yourself “why” also reveals underlying assumptions in your argument and forces you to prove them. 

3. Do Not Strawman

Presenting the other side’s argument weaker than they actually are is called “strawmanning.” Avoid a strawman argument as It makes your own rebuttal look weak and unconvincing. Instead, give the opponent's argument the most charitable interpretation. Take them at their best and still prove why their argument fails. If you prove their best case scenario to be false, your rebuttal applies to rest of their weaker cases too. 

4. Use “Even If” Response  

This is an effective strategy to respond to compelling arguments that may come from the opponent. There are two common ways to respond to arguments. One is to show the argument to be false at face value, and the second strategy is to show that even if the argument is true, why it is still a weak one. For example, it could be because it brings about detrimental consequences, or because it violates a moral principle.

5. Listen to The Other Side 

It’s easy to get caught up in our own heads and fixated on our own arguments and end up not listening to what the other side is saying. It is very important to listen or you'll end up in a screaming match with both sides not engaging in a debate but talking over each other.  By listening carefully, there are pieces of wisdom you can learn from the other team too.

NYU Abu Dhabi Debate Union

The NYU Abu Dhabi Debate Union team came in first at the Crossfire Inter-University Debate Competition in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, and was awarded champions in the novice category in the Leiden Open in the Netherlands, and National Law School Open in India. The debate team has also participated in numerous international tournaments such as Spain, Russia, America, as well as China for the Shanghai International Debate Open.