Friday, 1 August 2008

What Happens When We Argue TOO Well?

I am fascinated by how conflict plays out. It is full of curious ironies, dynamics and tricks.

Consider this excerpt from the BBC's Evan Davis's blog

"But it was one of those interesting arguments where - despite the other person winning - you remain somewhat unconvinced of their case. He argued it just too well.. I rather came to think he could win any argument he made. "

What a predicament to face. If we argue "Too well" we end up self defeating.

There is a recent family law case where this has been highlighted. In it a wife was arguing that her husband had hidden assets.

She argued that very well. She argued it too well.

She argued it so well that the judge, in the first instance, believed her unproven allegations and made an order against her husband accordingly.

The problem was that the argument was unsustainable on appeal, which she lost.

The awful irony is that she will have perceived she had succeeded in her case, but then faced another 2 years of litigation while the aftermath, of her own very successful efforts, were unravelled.

So, what are we to do?

We need to be on our guard and need to check our arguments. Are we creating a version of events simply to fit our perception? Stephen Covey would call this a paradigm view, no doubt. Are we being seduced by conflict, anger or indignation into seeing a quite artificial view.

There is another example of this very issue breaking as I write, with another BBC story. The former accused killer of Jillian Dando - Barry George - has been found innocent upon appeal. The prosecution case was criticised as follows;

""The only reason that the prosecution say that this is the work of the local loner, the local nutter, the man with these serious psychological problems, is because that is the man they arrested.

"But if you look at the facts of the case they will give you a very different story."

Facts, dear boy, facts.

In the aforementioned family law case, the appeal judgment explained that the problem with the original hearing and the wife's case is that it was not based on "Evidence but simply on a different belief asserted on behalf" of the wife. The extent to which the wife had proved her case was said to be "No more than `I assume that'"

My fuller article on the family law case can be found on my firm's website here.

1 comment:

Adam said...

Wow! What a problem to have, the ability to argue "too well". I see your point though. Just because we know how to win an argument doesn't mean that we've persuaded or convinced the other party. In this manner we're winning the argument but losing in the overall purpose of persuading the other person to our way of thinking. Brilliant! Thanks for posting this!