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Opinion Editorials

Six rules for effectively arguing any opposing point

Online or offline, humans are programmed to be thoughtful, but not necessarily logical. Remembering six simple rules for arguing can do wonders for discussing any topic with someone whose viewpoint opposes your own, be it a client, a coworker, or an online commenter.

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The rules for arguing

We’ve all created embarrassment for ourselves by parading our ignorance in public. Most of the time we’re convinced the problem resided in the other side’s inability to see the logic in our position. How many times have we realized the error in our logic after we’ve taken positions basically declaring gravity is a myth? This is me raising my hand in shame. Done it — many times. Merely recalling a few of ’em can make me blush a bit.

One of my OldSchool mentors tired of me arguing meritless points, so he laid down a brief set of rules.

  • Answering the other side’s question with a question isn’t allowed — ever.
  • Your answer may challenge the question’s premise, if you believe it’s false.
  • If answering, you must only address the question asked, nothing else. 
  • Label opinion as opinion, not disguised as fact. Otherwise, be as empirical as you can.
  • Never, as in never ever, get personal. You not only show the world your position is weak, you also demonstrate a lack of emotional maturity.
  • If in your judgment, the other side proves its case, smile, you learned something.
As an aside — ever notice those who’d rather argue the earth is flat than learn that we’ve known otherwise for hundreds of years?

Those rules have been a gold mine for me on a few levels. They’re especially valuable when you don’t understand the other side’s logic. I’ve learned to first assume it’s my logic at fault. As a young man, if I didn’t understand their logic, the default was, ‘they’re illogical’, which is silly on its face. Admitting I didn’t understand and asking for clarification works wonders. Duh. Solid questions will either teach you something you didn’t know, or help you undress their logic. Either way, you make progress towards a better understanding of the subject matter. Once I accepted the value of learning I might be incorrect, debating (discussing?) became the conduit to many of those ‘teaching moments’. Learning something new, especially when it simultaneously cures your own ignorance, is what fuels our growth.

A real life example of the rules in action

I was a very involved youth baseball coach when my son was growing up. One day after practice, one of the dads mentioned that Cecil Fielder, a Detroit Tiger, had just inked a huge multi-million, multi-year contract. Some of the kids, knowing this new contract would pay Fielder far more than their local hero and future first ballot Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, were enraged. I embraced the opportunity for a teaching moment.

First, I went over the above rules, to which they agreed, even though many were rollin’ their eyes. I allowed myself the first question.

Me: “Why shouldn’t Fielder get a far higher salary than Tony?”

Them: “Cuz Tony’s batting average is literally more than 100 points higher than Fielder’s!”

Me: “If that’s so, why did the Tigers decide to give him so much more money than Tony?”

Many at this point were sensing a trap, much to their credit. You could see it on their screwed up facial expressions. After all, the owners of a MLB team must be smart, right?

Them: “Don’t know cuz it makes no sense. It’s stoopid. Why did they?!”

Me: “I don’t know for sure, but logic tells me it’s due to the fact he hits so many homers, and knocks in so many runs every year. He knocks in over 100 runs every year.

What do you think the Tigers value more, total runs scored — OR — total number of singles hit?”

Them: “But Tony’s hittin’ over .350!”

Me: “Answer the question.”

Them: “Total runs scored?” (Dripping with teenage sarcasm.)

Me: “Let me come from another direction. How do we know who wins a baseball game?”

Them: “The one with the most runs.”

Lights go on above a buncha teenage heads. What they learned was that yes, .350 hitters are worth a bunch, but those who produce what, you know, wins games? They get paid a BUNCH.

Using the rules in my industry

Using those rules is how I learned what works better in real estate as a brokerage. My initial belief, set in stone, was that those representing nothing but buyers were kings of the real estate road. Then I had The Conversation (calling it a debate would have insulted debaters everywhere).

Though agents specializing in buyer representation can and do earn impressive incomes, listing agents who also take care of buyers do much mo betta. I had to learn this from someone packin’ over a decade as a broker who also happened to own the biggest listing brokerage in town. When I learned the facts, it became painfully obvious I had come to the table clueless in real estate land. It also showed me I was unnecessarily limiting my earning potential. It’s one thing to opt in for a lower income with full knowledge.

It’s quite another to leave money on the table due to ignorance, or worse, cuz you’re somehow emotionally committed to conclusions which are fantasy based.

If I hadn’t been forced into adhering to the aforementioned rules, my emotional, opinion driven attachment to an erroneous belief would’ve remained intact. I would’ve been plowing fields guaranteed to deliver smaller harvests than other available fields.

In business this approach has saved me countless times. We all believe in what we’re convinced are axiomatic principles. We’ve also learned from time to time that some of those beliefs were proven false, by evidence about which we were ignorant.

I propose a new way forward

Finally, how many times have we allowed ourselves to ignore mountains of evidence disproving something we knew was true? How many times have we seen folks personally attack someone simply because their position has been undermined by incontrovertible, documented evidence? When we do that it, not only does it reflect poorly on us, it’s prima facie evidence that we’re outa ammo.

It’s alright to say, “I was wrong, thanks.” Or, “I didn’t realize that was the case.”

Let’s argue our various cases, but in a way allowing both sides, if at all possible, to part ways knowing the truth. Being wrong about something isn’t a big deal. Defending that wrong position in the face of empirical evidence to the contrary makes us dumber than dirt.

Let’s stop doin’ that, OK?

Jeff Brown specializes in real estate investment for retirement, has practiced real estate for over 40 years and is a veteran of over 200 tax deferred exchanges, many multi-state. Brown is a second generation broker and works daily with the third generation. With CCIM training and decades of hands on experience, Brown's expertise is highly sought after, some of which he shares on his real estate investing blog.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. JensThomason

    May 24, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Really good article, Interesting and useful, apart from this I am an engineer & yesterday I was reading an article about <a href=”https://jasonhalek.datanetgroup.com”> Jason Halek  </a> . I really feel to share with you guys. I read about him. He was only 10 years old when he started working small jobs in his community and then he started business of soft drink and now he is the successful business man. He owns several oil and gas production companies. Jason Halek is not only the successful business man but also a philanthropist. He established Halek Charities & nonprofit organization dedicated to providing assistance to various humanitarian causes. I really got inspired by him.
     

  2. gregcook01

    May 25, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Jeff, the first rule of arguing: Never argue with idiots, from a distance no one can tell the difference

  3. Ro4RealEstate

    May 26, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Very well written piece, Jeff.  I enjoyed it and will share.

  4. Frugyl

    June 4, 2012 at 8:05 am

    That’s debatable! Ha ha! 🙂

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Opinion Editorials

The *actual* reasons people choose to work at startups

(EDITORIAL) Startups have a lot going for them, environment, communication, visible growth. So it is easy to see why they are so popular now

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startups meeting

Startups are perpetually viewed as the quintessential millennial paradise with all of the accompanying perks: flexible hours, in-house table tennis, and long holidays. With this reputation so massively ingrained in popular perception of startups, is it foolish to think that their employees actually care about the work that startup companies accomplish?

Well, yes and no.

The average startup has a few benefits that traditional business models can’t touch. These benefits often include things like open communication, a relaxed social hierarchy, and proximity to the startup’s mission. That last one is especially important: While larger businesses keep several degrees of separation between their employees and their end goals, startups put the stakes out in the open, allowing employees to find personal motivation to succeed.

When an employee can find themself personally fulfilled by their work, that work reaps many of the benefits of the employee’s dedication, which in turn helps the startup propagate. Many aspiring startup employees know this and are eager to “find themselves” through their work.

Nevertheless, the allure of your average startup doesn’t always come from the opportunity to work on “something that matters.”

Tiffany Philippou touches on this concept by pointing out that “People come to work for you because they need money to live… [s]tartups actually offer pretty decent salaries these days.”

It’s true that many employees in their early to late twenties will likely take any available job, so assuming that your startup’s 25-and-under employee base is as committed to finding new uses for plastic as you are may be a bit naïve—indeed, this is a notion that holds true for any business, regardless of size or persuasion.

However, startup experience can color a young employee’s perception of their own self-worth, thus allowing them to pursue more personally tailored employment opportunities down the road—and that’s not a bad legacy to have.

Additionally, startups often offer—and even encourage—a level of personal connection and interactivity that employees simply won’t find in larger, more established workplaces. That isn’t symptomatic of startups being too laid-back or operating under loosely defined parameters; instead, it’s a clue that work environments which facilitate personalities rather than rote productivity may stand to get more out of their employees.

Finally, your average startup has a limited number of spots, each of which has a clearly defined role and a possibility for massive growth. An employee of a startup doesn’t typically have to question their purpose in the company—it’s laid out for them; who are we to question their dedication to fulfilling it?

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Opinion Editorials

People saying “I love you” at work casually – yay or nay?

(EDITORIAL) Is saying “I love you” in the workplace acceptable in the current harassment and lawsuit climate? Let’s take a look at the factors.

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love shared

Anyone who works in “The Office” knows sometimes there is a failure to communicate. Per email conversation, context can get lost in translation.

So, why then, in the age of the Me Too Movement, are coworkers saying: I Love You?

I’m guessing it’s thanks to our digital lifestyle?

No, I’m not a Boomer. Thank you very much. That’s a different editorial. But, I’ve been working since way back in the day. A time when we wore tennis shoes with nylons. Wait, that’s still a thing?

Alas, I digress.

If we consider the culture of work, particularly in the case of some start-ups, it’s not uncommon for there to be beer in the workplace, casual dress – meaning you have clothes on – and possibly a more youthful expectation around communication.

So, f*ck yeah, dude, I love you!

With the use of workflow apps like Slack, where people can text you – while on the toilet, no less. I mean, who hasn’t told a colleague, “OMG! You are a f@cking ?” after dealing with a challenging situation/customer/boss/client and that colleague comes to the rescue.

Just me? Oops.

Maybe it started back with the I Love You Man commercial, which also became the title of a bromance.

If the bros can have their bromance, then why can’t we all say those three words in the workplace?

I’m not gonna spoil the party and say never. I’m just going to suggest some things are better left unsaid.

First, words are powerful.

Because this is the era of Me Too, it’s easy for there to be misinterpretation. What if a woman says it to a male colleague. A boss says to a much junior employee.

Can you say harassment?

One of my former managers didn’t even like me saying her name. I can’t imagine what she’d do if I said: “I love you.”

But, here’s a real reason. People are happy with us one day and not the next.

Keeping it chill and professional is important. For example, I once called my co-worker – and very good friend – a nasty Spanish word and it almost resulted in a knife fight. What I learned is one day you are joking around and your friend isn’t.

Second, a laissez-faire attitude toward communication can become second nature. You can’t be accidentally telling your client, you love them, now can you? I mean, beyond being authentic, those words mean a lot to some people, just tossing them about shows a real lack of judgment and can result in an extremely negative response.

Which leads me to my last point.

“Et, tu Cheryl”

One company I worked at hired Gallup to do a survey of staff. One of the questions was about having a work BFF, which is important in the workplace. Often we have our work husband or wife or sister, even. We all need someone we can lean on.

In the workplace, depending on the culture and environment, it may be a good place to keep it 100 or, if too toxic, a better place to fake it. Even people who seem to be on your side might be just waiting to pounce.

Get too close, say the wrong thing and Cheryl gets your office with the window and the red stapler too.

All I’m saying is keep it real, but maybe not too real.

Oh, and btw, I <3 U.

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Opinion Editorials

Audi paves the way for how to thoughtfully reduce a workforce

(BUSINESS NEWS) Audi has a new electric car plan that will eliminate 9,500 employees…but in a shocking twist, we’re not even mad. WATT’s going on here?

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Audi E-tron

12 billion motivational posters/yoga tops/specialty ziploc bags can’t all be wrong: Positive change always comes with loss.

For German Audi workers, the company shifting gears to focus on manufacturing electric vehicles will see employee losses to the tune of 7.5k people being Audi of a job there. In the next five years, another 2,000 jobs are expected to get the axe as well.

So they should be panicking, right? Audi workers should mask up and be out in the streets?

Well, considering the general state of the world, yes. But if we’re isolating to just this change, no!

See, Audi’s not actually shoving people out of the door to make room for younger, sexier, more fuel-efficient staff. The jobs they’re cutting are going to be cut due to employees leaving on their own for different pastures and retirement. As in, no one’s getting laid off through 2029.

Now there’s an electric slide I can get behind!

Audi’s top brass, in an Ohm-My-God twist (see what I did there), actually sat down with worker reps and talked this move out. This kinder, gentler, distinctly NON-assy arangement will save the company over 6.6 billion dollars over the next decade, and all of that cash is going to boogie-woogie-woogie into their ‘lightning car development’ piggy banks.

Yay for them!

And yay for us.

See, Germany has a (recent) history of not being horrible to their employees. It’s why Walmart’s attempt to claw its way into Deutschland went up in so much smoke. And that history is accompanied by a reputation for stunningly positive change for everyone from white tie to black apron.

With a brand as giant, trusted, and drooled over as Audi is managing to conduct massively profitable business without schwantzing anyone over, everyone here in the US has a shining example to point to and follow when making massive company moves.

Notably, Tesla, America’s favorite electric car company is almost cartoonishly anti-union, anti-worker, and anti-running dress rehearsals on expectation/glass shattering exhibitions. The prevailing thought is that it’s a necessity to be some kind of moustache twirling villain to get ahead because so many businesses insist upon it.

But that chestnut cracks here.

No more ‘Businesses exist to make money’ excuses. No more ‘You have to be ruthless to get ahead’ BS. Those selective-sociopathy inducing phrases never made any sense to begin with, but now, we’ve got a shining example of towering projected #GAINZ for a company doing right by its people without a single head rolling on the factory floors or a single decimal point moved left in the ledgers.

Ya done good, Audi.

Here’s hoping more businesses stateside follow in your tire tracks.

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