Yes, there is.
Is there a right way to argue? In short, yes.
For more detailed instruction on the matter, read chapter 18 of Proverbs.
Unfriendly people care only about themselves; they lash out at common sense. Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.Proverbs 18:1-2 NLT
If you are arguing with someone who shows no interest in understanding your point, they might just be unfriendly and/or foolish. On the other hand, if you aren’t really listening–just thinking about what you want to say until it’s your turn to speak–you might be the unfriendly/foolish one.
Therefore, let us recommend you focus on listening, and limit your own speech as much as possible. If nothing else, it keeps you out of trouble…
Fools’ words get them into constant quarrels; they are asking for a beating.Proverbs 18:6 NLT
But mainly, focus on listening. If you truly seek to reach an understanding with someone on a difficult point, it is essential. So stay calm, and ask questions to help clarify what they are trying to communicate.
Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.Proverbs 18:13 NLT
And if you get brought in to a dispute between friends, remember to get both sides of the story. Once you hear the other party’s explanation, you might change your mind about the best way to mediate.
The first to speak in court sounds right—until the cross-examination begins.Proverbs 18:17 NLT
The bottom line is: most disputes can be solved by truly listening and honestly pursuing understanding. Who wants to lose a friend over a silly argument?
An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars.Proverbs 18:19 NLT
The author of Proverbs warned about post-argument lockouts thousands of years ago…and the words seem truer today than ever!
Finally, when all else fails, if you still can’t reach an agreement…
Flipping a coin can end arguments; it settles disputes between powerful opponents.Proverbs 18:18 NLT
…There’s no shame in flipping a coin. His Word is forever alive!
Questions for Group Discussion
- Why is listening so important in an argument? Have you had experiences in which you felt unheard or misunderstood?
- What does it mean in Proverbs 18:2 to have an “interest in understanding”? Why is it foolish not to?
- Do you have to compromise to argue fairly? If so, where do you draw the line? If not, how do you know when it is okay to do so?
Challenge: Get Your Hands Dirty
We might have oversold this challenge in the title. It’s figurative–your hands will actually remain unsoiled.
Read about a current political event or social issue from sources on both sides of the spectrum.
- Find at least one conservative (“Right Wing”) news outlet and at least one liberal (“Left Wing”) news outlet. You may want to consult a current online Media Bias Chart for more perspective.
- Choose a political event or social issue you have heard about recently to research.
- Read about your research topic from opposing viewpoints, alternating each time, AND always balancing the two sides. If you start on the conservative side, read from the liberal side next, and switch each time. You should read an even number of articles, because each time you read from one side, you read one from the other side as well.
- Did your opinion(s) on your topic change, after reading about it from opposing viewpoints? Why, or why not?
- How has your understanding of your topic changed after this challenge? Do you think this understanding will help you discuss the topic with someone who does not share your views?
- Do you think this is a helpful practice–reading about something from opposing viewpoints? Why, or why not?