The ability to argue well is a life skill. Get it right and it can be an art form, but get it wrong and you risk humiliation. Red-faced rages, shouting and tears are not respected in the office and undermine one’s sense of professionalism and self-worth.


According to a recent article, here are ten tips on how to argue with finesse and ensure you get your point across succinctly:


Be strategic and do your homework


"Before starting an argument think carefully about what it is you are arguing about and what it is you want," says Jonathan Herring, lawyer and author of How To Argue. This may sound obvious. But it is critically important. 


Listen up


Start by listening to what the other person has to say and make sure you acknowledge their point of view.


Be open-minded, or at least appear that way


"Becoming defensive is one of the worst ways to win an argument," says psychology professor Susan Krauss Whitbourne. "If you appear to be giving the other side’s position a thoughtful review, then the solution you propose will seem more sensible. Furthermore, your opponent may come to your side without your having to do anything other than listen. By letting your opponent speak, you may allow the situation to naturally resolve itself."


Trust the other person's intent


Even if the person disagrees with you or you feel angry because they hurt your feelings, assume they did not intend to hurt you or make a mistake.


Get comfortable with awkward silences


Stephen Key, author of the One Simple Idea series says: "after I explicitly state what it is I want, I clam up. When we’re uncomfortable with an awkward silence, it’s tempting to fill it quickly, but if you do, you might end up saying something without thinking it through. Make your point, be confident and force yourself to wait for a response."


Don’t get emotional - take your time


Exploders might win arguments by sheer brute force but that doesn't last. Only logic lasts, and to be logical you need to be in control of your emotions.


Disagree clearly, using specific examples


Make your position known as soon as you reasonably can. Be simple, to the point, and specific about your concerns.


Attack the problem, not the person


Your points will be heard more clearly if you can depersonalise your comments and point only at the issue.


Bombard your opponent with questions


If you can ask the right questions you can stay in control of the discussion and make your opponent scramble for answers. A useful type of question is one that calmly provokes your opponent, 'what is about this that makes you so angry?'


Use body language to disarm your opponent


"Mirror your adversary," advises US-based communications expert Nick Morgan. Mirroring builds agreement; you can often head off potential trouble by establishing a strong basis of nonverbal agreement before the hard negotiating begins.


Try to adopt a similar seated or standing position to your party. This sends an unconscious message to the person that you are on an equal level and generally in agreement with them. They will then begin to trust you.

A study of more than 86,000 Facebook users has shown the ability of intelligent machines to predict an individual’s character based on what they have ‘liked’. David Stillwell of Cambridge, who developed the personality test, says: ‘we found that the computer can predict personality as accurately as the person’s spouse, better than a close friend or family member and a whole lot better than a work colleague’.

86,220 volunteers on Facebook completed a 100 item personality questionnaire and allowed their likes to be accessed for the Cambridge study. Machine-learning software analysed the ‘likes’ based on the five main traits usually used in psychological assessments: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. The more ‘likes’ the computer could include in its assessment, the more accurate it became in forming a prediction of a person’s overall character and personality.

Wu Youyou, the lead author of the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, notes: ‘in the future, computers could be able to infer our psychological traits and react accordingly, leading to the emergence of emotionally-intelligent and socially-skilled machines. People may choose to augment their own intuitions and judgements with this kind of data analysis when making important life decisions such as choosing activities, career paths or even romantic partners’.

However, this could raise ethical questions about how and when it would be applied. Stillwell says: ‘the results of such data analysis can be very useful in aiding people when making decisions but people need to be aware of it, and companies need to tell us when they are using it’.

Researchers also share the concerns of those fearing a dystopian future, where our traits and habits become an ‘open book’ for computers to read. Dr Michal Kosinski, another member of the team, says: ‘we hope that consumers, technology developers, and policymakers will tackle those challenges by supporting privacy-protecting laws and technologies, and giving the users full control over their digital footprints.’

The new wave of online gurus and social media influencers are helping marketers gain ‘word of mouth at scale’. Many now have more followers than the circulation of papers and magazines. A recent article in the FT shows how this trend represents a paradigm shift in how marketers reach consumers today.


Although influencer marketing has not yet become its own category, Forrester Research estimates the US social media marketing spend will be over double in the next few years: from $8.2bn last year to $18.7bn in 2019.


Marco Hansell, chief executive of Speakr, an agency that connects social influencers with brands, says companies want to ‘piggyback’ on the relationships such influencers build with their followers. ‘A movie studio doesn’t have a personality, per se. I don’t have a relationship with Universal Studios. But I do with this guy on YouTube and when he lends his name to something, or says this is awesome, or creates content around it, I have a whole different level of interaction.’


Part of the authenticity is that brands allow influencers to create their own content, instead of handing them an advertisement to broadcast to their followers. This helps marketers reduce their budgets with the huge number of campaigns they are expected to run on social media.


The two biggest challenges are gauging influencers’ impact and deciding what they disclose about what a brand is paying for the promotion.


Eric Dahan from Instabrand works with influencers. He says it is a ‘new frontier in traditional ad buying and selling’, where metrics such as impressions, clicks and key performance indicators that brands are used to buying against do not work on Vine, Snapchat and Instagram. These social media platforms, unlike Facebook and Twitter, are in the early stages of working out their paid advertising model. They do not provide detailed data on who sees each image, so marketers have to rely on how many followers an account has.


Laundry Service, an American social media marketing agency, has created Cycle: a business managing more than 1,000 top Instagram photographers with large followings. Cycle’s photographers are paid to share photos with their followers, as well as to create photos for brands that are used across other social networks. They must disclose any sponsored campaign they work on. Jason Stein, Laundry Service president, says brands that use Instagram photos in their email and Facebook campaigns see higher click through rates, engagement rates and conversions. Cycle now accounts for 15 per cent of Laundry Service’s revenue.


Another issue is when influencers include brands in their posts without stating they have been paid to promote them. Recently, the advertising watchdog criticised popular YouTube stars for promoting Oreos without disclosing they had struck a deal with Mondelez, the global snack group that owns the biscuit brand. Not disclosing paid promotion is detrimental to the brand.


A few examples of social media influencers who work with brands:


Sam Ciurdar - Photographer

Ciurdar’s Instagram is full of pictures of his adventures. On a trip to Canada, the professional freelance photographer took some pictures that led to him becoming a social media influencer for Tim Horton’s coffee.

Horton saw that Ciurdar’s snaps of the Canadian coffee were popular with his 35,000 followers so signed a deal with him to promote them officially.

Ciurdar thinks brands are smart in the way they approach influencers, asking them to be creative in a way that matches their other posts on a given platform.


Michael Platco - Snapchat artist

Platco has created a business out of being a specialist in Snapchat, the disappearing messaging app that has soared in popularity with teenagers. He has his own account but often takes over the accounts of brands such as Disney to send out amusing snaps, which he enlivens with colourful sketches.

So far, Snapchat has not made it easy for influencers and marketers. It is hard to measure who a ‘snap’ has reached and they are almost impossible for a recipient to send on.

‘Snapchat in every way is different than Instagram and YouTube and Vine’, he says. ‘It is such a different platform that it calls for a whole different playbook.’ He adds he is cautious with brands he chooses to represent. ‘I need to be cool with that brand. I’ve turned down a good amount of work because I thought anything I did with this brand would be spammy’, he says.


Brent Rivera - Teen vlogger

Rivera, created a series of posts for the teen-focused retailer Hollister. The teenager made his first brand deal last year and devotes hours a day to his social media presence. He entrusts the deal making to his manager. ‘[My manager] is really good with social media, he knows CPM [cost per mille, an advertising measure] and what other people are charging for an Instagram post or tweet and for which companies’, he explains. ‘It depends on engagement, so I have pretty high engagement, which means I get a lot of likes.’