By Brianna Wiest

At its most basic level, argumentativeness is a reflex, not a choice. When we feel threatened in some way, we either respond by fleeing, freezing or fighting. Eventually, most people begin to realize that unconsciously responding to random, external stimuli is exhausting at best and destructive at worst. We begin to censor our responses to things – these are the seeds of self-awareness.

However, this does not mean that arguing doesn’t serve an important purpose. While it is often a product of grappling with our own threatened sense of identity, it is also how we can communicate feeling strongly about something important. When done intelligently, someone who knows how to argue well can be a master of their social surroundings – in business, love, and so on. The first step to doing so, however, is not sounding as though you’re being argumentative.

Enter the hierarchy. To put it bluntly, there are a lot of idiotic ways that people try to argue with one another, and most of them do not work. They only leave both parties more frustrated, ultimately because they each avoid addressing the real issue in its entirety. Check them out below, and see where your go-to strategy ranks:


You deflect from the issue at hand by proclaiming that someone is an “ass” or an “idiot,” without any argument to back it up.

Ad Hominem.

You attack the character or the authority of the person without addressing the actual substance of the argument. (If someone who smokes says: “Smoking is bad,” you respond: “Who are you to say?!” Rather than seeing it as an objective truth.)

Responding to Tone.

You criticize the tone or the diction of the person making the argument as a means of deflecting from actually addressing the argument itself.


You state the opposing case with little or no evidence to back it up. You’re arguing for the sake of it, you just inherently do not want to validate or agree with the person for some reason.


You contradict the statement, then back it up with reasoning and/or supportive evidence.


You find the mistake in the argument and explain why it is a mistake using direct quotations or inferences from the person’s original statement.

Refuting the Central Point.

You explicitly refute the central point of the argument, providing sound logic and reason (if not research, or personal experience) to back up your claim.

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