How to win an argument every time (according to science)

Ever feel you’re fighting a losing battle at work?

Compromise and empathy are valuable assets, but sometimes you need to outright get your point across if progress is to be made. Laboring on under a false understanding can just create more trouble down the line – and nobody learns anything if their misconceptions are never challenged.

Sometimes, however, even if you do make a stand for the truth – be it a better technique, a business insight, or an interpersonal issue – you can walk away from the encounter feeling crushed and defeated. Losing an argument when you know that you’re right feels even worse than not speaking up at all.

So how can you make sure that your voice is heard, your points are understood, and your case is won? Well, like so many aspects of workplace life, you can go by instinct – or you can learn some proven techniques.

There are three stages to winning an argument the smart way:

  1. engagement,
  2. expression, and
  3. agreement.

You need to engage your opponent, because coming at them in an all-out attack will just raise their defenses before you’ve even made your point. Don’t frame the argument as an conflict, but rather a discussion. Quite aside from the fact that you might actually be wrong and/or learn something from listening, asking your opponent to explain their side first can foster a rapport, so they are more likely to trust you when it’s time to make your own points. Instead of countering their arguments, begin by asking open questions – especially if you spot a loose thread in their logic. Often their argument will fall apart in their own hands.

Back up this period of listening by repeating back what you’ve understood. This proves you weren’t just pretending to listen – and can also help loosen those threads a little further. And maintain friendly eye contact, but don’t force a smile. False smiles betray themselves, jeopardizing the trust you’ve built.

So now you’re leading the discussion on your terms, it’s time to express your side of things. But first, let’s skip back in time for a moment: you need to make sure you’ve researched your argument! Just as you can easily expose the flaws in your opponent’s poorly-thought-out logic, it is likely that you think you know your own logic better than you do (this is known as ‘illusion of explanatory depth’). Everybody is right until they are proved wrong.

Illustrate your points with visuals and back them up with evidence and supporting arguments from other people – particularly those who are noted in the relevant field. Unless your opponent is a troll or a contrarian, this will strengthen your argument by demonstrating that your mutual peers agree with you. Speak quietly, and soften potential aggression by using ‘could it be’ and ‘might we say’-type phrases, and little cues for agreement such as ‘isn’t it?’ and ‘wouldn’t you say…’. This reduces the impression that you are an opponent to be defeated, and instead promotes an atmosphere of doubt, discussion, and rational progress.

Just as you flattered your opponent into engaging with you, you can finish them off – er, secure their agreement, that is – by working with their point of view rather than getting hung up on your own case. One way to do this is to find a particularly silly area of their logic and to develop it to an absurd extreme. This is a great strategy when your opponent is clearly trapped in their own logic, and hasn’t considered the real world implications of their claims. You probably already know this technique: when your kindergarten teacher asked you, ‘if Billy told you to jump off a cliff, would you do that, too?’, your ‘Billy told me to snap the pencil’ argument dissolved in an instant.

And if total destruction of your opponent is not your over-arching intention, you can swing them over to your way of thinking by entertaining the common ground between your arguments. In a business scenario, chances are you want the same results – but are divided over the best way of getting there. Highlighting the elements that you are agreed upon can help pave the way from their high castle to yours.

Indisputable victory in an argument is not always the healthiest way forward, but if you want to sway things in your favor or to correct dangerous misconceptions, it can help to have a few debating tools on hand to do so. Check out this infographic for some additional tips – and don’t be afraid to be wrong, because it’s only by acknowledging our flaws that we can move past them.

G. John Cole is a digital nomad and freelance writer. Specialising in leadership, digital media and personal growth, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK and the Balkans. 

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How Can The SEC Suspend A Currency? Bitcoin Goes Through New Woes

The regulation of the Bitcoin industry is getting even stranger. Not only are Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and token sales now subject to federal securities laws, in late August the SEC announced the temporary suspension of trading of First Bitcoin Capital Corp (BITCF). The trading ban on the Canadian company will be in effect until September 7 at 11:59.

According to the SEC, “The Commission temporarily suspended trading in the securities of BITCF because of concerns regarding the accuracy and adequacy of publicly available information about the company including, among other things, the value of BITCF’s assets and its capital structure.”

The company’s goal is to not only acquire and invest in Bitcoin start-ups but also to invest in mining equipment and bitcoin only online stores. It also has its own digital currency exchange and plans to offer its own cryptocurrency exchange called Coinqx.com.

So far, so good. What is the SEC’s beef with BITCF?

The price of BITCF on the OTC (over the counter) markets jumped 7,000% this year. At the beginning of 2017, shares were trading at $0.045, rising to a high of $3.15 in early August, before falling to a price of $1.79 at the time of suspension.

Because BITCF is an OTC security, it is not required to file information with the SEC. However, the OTC Market’s inter-dealer quotation system called OTC Link is registered as a broker-dealer. OTC Link is also a member of the U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

There are not a lot of ways, in other words, to completely avoid the regulated banking and securities system. Even for companies dealing in cryptocurrency.

In the meantime, since the suspension, at least three law firms are looking into class action liability issues.  Specifically, losses suffered by investors who might have been misled by the company’s claims.

The Rosen Law Firm announced its investigation on August 24. A second law firm, Gewirtz & Grossman, announced that they are investigating whether the company broke the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. A third firm, Faruqi and Faruqi is now investigating claims of those who lost more than $100,000 as a result of the large price fluctuations.

In other words, Bitcoin is becoming regulated just like any other security and for reasons that have nothing to do with the “decentralized” authority of Bitcoin, but rather the larger financial system into which it is becoming integrated.

For this reason, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are well on the path towards regulation. In terms of exchange. And in terms of price. Not to mention price manipulation.

What Will This Mean Down The Road?

While cryptocurrency will continue to develop, the idea of a freewheeling, unregulated monetary or securities exchange is likely to go the way of the Dodo. As cyber currencies of all kinds as well as tokens become integrated into not only daily life but machine-to-machine operations, they will inevitably be more controlled and regulated. They will have to be. For example, in the case of token exchanges between inanimate objects, the stability of the value of these tokens will have to remain relatively stable. Otherwise, running the dishwasher or the electric car will become an almost impossible value arbitrage.

Where is this going in the land of currency? The value volatility that is a hallmark so far of all cyber currency exchanges and currencies may continue for some time. It may be that the token and currency markets will diverge. Or it may mean that all will eventually settle down into a world that is far more like the traditional securities and currency markets that exist today.

That appears to be the direction in which we are now heading. And that, despite the dreaded “R” word (regulations) may be exactly the thing that investors really want.

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Can Bitcoin Be Regulated?

One of the attractions of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is the idea that they are not regulated by a central banking authority. It has led to some spectacular jumps in the price of Bitcoin, which is controlled by a relatively small number of global investors. The volatility in the market was even more obvious this summer with the price of Bitcoin rising more than 50% since the start of August, and hitting an all-time high on August 15th before crashing by more than 13% shortly thereafter. The heightened interest in the cryptocurrency has been driven by an agreement reached to finally update the rules governing the software. With the new rules in place, transactions over the network should now run much faster.

This incident shows that Bitcoin is in fact “governed”, if not by a central authority, then by a small group of developers. Further, those who govern the market are insiders who know ahead of time when a change will happen.

This is not how a regulated currency is supposed to work, and can inevitably lead to problems. For example, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges – BTCe – has now gone down in flames. For those unfamiliar with the ongoing scams and thefts, it appears that many of them, including the stunning theft of 800,000 Bitcoins via the now defunct Mt Gox exchange, used the BTCe exchange to launder their stolen Bitcoins. The indictment of BTCe’s founder appears to show that he was responsible for most of the largest thefts of Bitcoins globally for most of this decade. As you can imagine, regulators are now taking a serious and ongoing look at Bitcoin. And so as Bitcoin establishes itself as a globally recognized currency, or taxable asset, it is slowly becoming more and more regulated.

Most Bitcoins are regulated in some way – and for a very simple reason. It is necessary to have access to conventional money, via an online bank account, in order to buy cryptocurrency in the first place.

Recognition of Cryptocurrency

Is a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin a “currency” or is it really an “asset” that can gain or lose value? Or is it both? Nobody is sure and the uncertainty is likely to continue for some time. Cryptocurrencies are currently being defined and recognised on a country-by-country and sometimes regional basis.

Australian senators have recently called for Bitcoin to be recognized as a currency in the country. They are not the only ones. In the EU, Bitcoins may be used to buy goods and services, and are designated as a “digital presentation of the value not confirmed by the central bank”. Similarly, Japan has also legalized Bitcoin as a payment method. Other countries take a different view. Israel and the U.S. generally treat Bitcoin as a taxable asset subject to capital gains tax. In China, Bitcoin is also generally treated as a taxable asset.

Concerns about what can be bought with cryptocurrency is on the mind of regulators and politicians in many jurisdictions. One of the places this is currently showing up is in locations where cannabis is being legalized, particularly in the United States. The reason is that the U.S. banking industry is still subject to federal rules on financial transactions relating to the sale or purchase of marijuana. Buying weed using Bitcoin is a logical alternative, and a number of branded sub-currencies like Potcoin have stepped into the breach. However, this is being blocked in places like Washington State due to concerns around financial transparency and money laundering. Legislators are considering banning the purchase of cannabis with any cryptocurrency.

Given all of these developments, it is clear that while cryptocurrency may not be regulated by old fashioned means – with value calculations being performed by a central authority – governments are in fact beginning to find ways to regulate this “currency” by controlling how it should be used, taxed, and what products people can buy with it.

No matter what else it may be, this clearly amounts to “regulation” of the market. Even if in its first and earliest stages.

Marguerite Arnold is the founder of MedPayRx, a blockchain healthcare startup in Frankfurt. She is also an author, journalist and has just obtained her EMBA from the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

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Blockchain as Monetized Infrastructure

 

For those struggling to understand blockchain, think of it this way. It will be the digital connection between people as well as between machines – starting with your cell phone.

It will be used to tell your washing machine when to run. It will also be used to bill you for the electricity and water it uses. In turn, it could also deduct that amount from your solar positive mortgage.

Blockchain tends to be easier to understand if you think of it as a piece of infrastructure than as the backend ledger for all cryptocurrency. However, questions about payments are always present when talking about blockchain. In particular, blockchain is a system which enables micro-payments, in some cases in increments of less than a penny.

Why is this important?

Basically, in an Artificial Intelligence and Internet-of-things world, the transfer of digital tokens is what will make the system go. Machine processing does not happen in a vacuum. There are costs involved. Who pays and how is a fascinating part of the banking system, which will very soon incorporate blockchain.

Blockchain as a form of infrastructure has become a serious topic in a world filled with cybercurrencies and fundraising networks. One example of a company making interesting choices in this area is a Dutch innovator called Quantoz. They got their start as experts in decentralized energy and transportation. They have subsequently branched out in several intriguing directions, winning not only recognition for their innovations but also industrial clients.

Quantoz has developed their own cryptocurrency exchange called happycoins. However, they are absolutely not interested in cryptocurrency speculation, nor are they aiming to raise vast sums via a crowdfunding sale – known as an Initial Coin Offering. Their sights instead are set on a part of the market that is still coming into its own but where blockchain and cyber currency are likely to have their biggest influence.

Digital Payment Networks

Quantoz recently launched a new consortium to create something they are calling QPN. The Quasar Payment Network is intended to enable a peer-to-peer micro transaction network between consumers, enterprises and IoT. In other words, the firm is using blockchain not to become a traditional bank but to build a payment gateway that enables enterprise.

QPN creates a gateway between traditional bank accounts and digital wallets required for interacting with blockchain controlled systems.

It means that there is a direct two way exchange between traditional cash and the tokens that power the network. For example, an automobile could pay a sensor to understand current driving conditions. This information could then be used by the car to help the driver handle the road better. In turn, this safety feature and the driver’s use of it could be factored into insurance premiums, even if you are only renting a shared automobile.

In this kind of scenario, the digital tokens that are being transferred in the system are valued by the cost of machine time, which itself depends on the cost of electricity. They are a kind of currency, although the best way to understand them is as digital tokens.

Automated, controlled environments are coming fast. By looking beyond short term speculation, and understanding blockchain as an enabling infrastructure for a connected world, firms like Quantoz will have an important role to play.

Marguerite Arnold is the founder of MedPayRx, a blockchain healthcare startup in Frankfurt. She is also an author, journalist and has just obtained her EMBA from the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

Image: Pexels

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Lest We Forget

This past week we saw violent protests in Charlottesville, USA. They deserve our attention.

A rally called “Unite the Right” had formed to prevent a statue of Robert E. Lee from being torn down. Lee was a General during the American Civil War who fought for the Confederacy, a collection of southern states that supported the continued existence of slavery.

Racial tension remains an ongoing issue within America, and in that context some have called for visible public symbols, like Confederate statues, which call to mind past conflicts and fan the flames of ongoing tensions be moved to museums or elsewhere.

Some would say this is the wrong thing to do because where do you draw the line? When do you stop removing statues? George Washington, the first President of the United States, was a slave owner. Should all of Washington’s statues also be moved to museums?  Obviously this is a nonsense argument, since the American Founding Fathers are central to America’s identity. Although, it does highlight some key questions. Is it appropriate to pull down statues? And, what is the best way to reduce racial tensions?

On its face, removing a statue might be seen as erasing history, destroying cultural heritage, or censoring ideas. Clearly it is not something that should be done lightly. However, it would seem appropriate in certain circumstances, for example if a statue is being used as a rallying point by racists, bigots, or extremists. It might be argued that pulling down a statue will in time help people to forget past conflicts and thus move forwards together. However, it is worth remembering that removing statues does not by itself remove social tensions. Ultimately, the only antidote to conflict is not collective amnesia but community forgiveness and reconciliation. It is not necessary to forget the past in order to forgive others and move forwards, and it may not even be sufficient. Research suggests that animosities can linger on long after the original facts that caused hard feelings are forgotten.

Unfortunately, these issues are highly politicised, and moving forwards together is not what most people engaged in the issue are focused on right now. The Washington Post reported that at the Charlottesville protest “[a] lone figure stood inside Emancipation Park, offering water and holding a sign that said, “Free Hugs.” Tyler Lloyd said he came hoping for a peaceful solution. The rallygoers accepted his water but declined the hugs.”

Shortly after the protests, President Trump poured gasoline on the fire by failing to clearly denounce hate speech (including pro-Nazi, anti-black, and anti-Semitic slogans) chanted by many of the protesters. In his initial address he condemned “hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.” While pulling down statues may not be the solution to racial tensions, it is hard to see how this amounts to hatred or bigotry when its intent is the opposite. And so, what Trump was actually doing was drawing a moral equivalence between the protesters engaging in hate speech and the counter-protesters opposing them. In response to Trump’s comments, David Duke, former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, tweeted “[t]hank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville…” As if being endorsed by the KKK weren’t bad enough, a dozen CEOs also stepped down from Trump’s advisory councils in protest. As a result, the Strategy & Policy Forum and the Manufacturing Council are to be disbanded.

Are we living in base level reality, or is this one of Elon Musk’s distopian simulations?

The events surrounding Charlottesville give us a glimpse into the way Donald Trump thinks. He did not clearly denounce hate speech in his initial address, and while some have taken this to mean that Trump is a Nazi sympathiser it seems unlikely. He denounced the KKK and neo-Nazis as ‘repugnant’ two days later. However, he later defended his original morally ambiguous comments.

Trump’s willingness to spin on a dime and play fast and loose with tightly held American values highlights what many people already knew: Trump is a narcissist. He is more interested in his own agenda than what anyone else thinks. This means he is willing to tacitly support those who support him (remember that the alt-right was part of his support base during the election), and will viciously attack anyone who attacks him (CNN, the Washington Post, and other ‘fake’ news organisations). Trump’s narcissism is dangerous not because he intends to hurt others, but because he is casually indifferent to the agenda of anyone who is not Trump. What this means is that there is no way to understand or predict his behaviour, expect by knowing that he will at each step along the way reliably do what suits him best at a given point in time.

So where does that leave us?

The world finds itself at a delicate moment in history when the President of the most powerful country in the world clearly prefers expediency to morality, and has publicly demonstrated a casual indifference towards overt prejudice and discrimination.

In a heartening show of resistance, during the week a video released by the US War Department in 1943 went viral. It encourages Americans not to fall for the fascist rhetoric of prejudice and division. It is a positive message and if you haven’t already watched it, I encourage you to take a look. Lest we forget.

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