Constructing a logical and persuasive response to counter or challenge someone’s argument is essential for effective arguing. Here’s how to do it:
Before you can counter an argument, you need to understand it fully. Break down the discussion into its components, identify the main points, and determine the underlying assumptions. A tough but crucial approach is to stay calm and respectful and consciously avoid personal attacks or aggressive language; this can weaken your position and make it harder for the other person to engage with your counterpoints.
Suppose the way that you speak to people requires them to dismantle their egos to agree with you. In that case, you’ve got yourself a problematic situation at hand because people are not going to agree with you very much by acknowledging any valid points or common ground within the argument. This shows that you’re open to constructive discussion and can establish a more receptive atmosphere for your counterargument.
The best way to present your argument is to state your counterargument clearly and concisely. For example, after acknowledging valid points made by your opponents, you can state what you intend to counter. For example, you can start your statement with “Here’s my issue with that” (the statement you intend to counter and present your evidence, reasoning, or alternative perspective that challenges the points made in the initial argument. Ensure your counterargument addresses the main issues and assumptions of the original statement.
This gives your opponent the perspective that the argument is with the statement made and not with them. Remember to explain why you disagree with those points, providing counterpoints backed by evidence and logical reasoning.
That being said, you need to bear in mind that people generally do not like to be defeated, so you should anticipate the possibility of counterarguments the other person might present in response to your counterargument. Prepare answers to these potential counterpoints to demonstrate that you’ve thoroughly considered the issue. A well-structured argument is more likely to be understood and respected.
A common weak approach to responding to counterarguments is by whipping out logical fallacies; you have to refrain from using them in your counterargument. Fallacies weaken your position and can harm your credibility. Common fallacies include ad hominem attacks (where instead of addressing the actual argument, you proceed to attack their character, personal traits, or circumstances), straw man arguments (misrepresenting or exaggerating an opponent’s argument to make it easier to attack. Instead of addressing the original argument) and circular reasoning (using the statement you’re trying to prove as evidence for its own truth, resulting in a circular or tautological argument that lacks genuine support. For example, saying, “I’m an honest person because I have a strong sense of self-worth.” In this case, the conclusion (“I’m an honest person”) relies on the premise (“I have a strong sense of self-worth”), which itself is based on the conclusion. This circular reasoning doesn’t provide any external or objective basis for asserting one’s value.)
As you engage in the discussion, actively listen to the other person’s responses. This shows that you value their perspective and are open to adjusting your own viewpoint if their counterpoints are strong. Not every argument needs to result in one side “winning.” Be open to finding a middle ground or adjusting your stance based on new information or persuasive points presented during the discussion.
Finally, you always have to find a way to end on a respectful note: Even if you don’t fully agree with the other person, aim to end the discussion on a respectful note. Effective arguing is about presenting your case thoughtfully, logically, and respectfully. The goal is to foster understanding and potentially reach a consensus, not to “win” at any cost
About the author
Abiola Olaore-Williams is an international brand consultant, ideator, strategist and CEO at YNaija, an online content publishing platform.
Biola has worked in the non-profit and communications industry since 2016. Skilled in Management, Strategic Planning, and designing experiential Product journeys.