I'm an economist by nature. I don't like spending money foolishly. I don't like wasting resources. I don't like wasting time. And most especially, I don't like wasting words.
When I speak or write, I want my message to be understood. You don't have to agree with me but you do have to understand what I'm trying to say. If you don't, then I have failed to communicate effectively.
I never used to think I was any good at winning arguments. When someone ranted or raved, or kept interrupting, my mind would go into freeze mode and I couldn't think of a reply. Then one day, I realized that this could be to my advantage.
I had purchased an answering machine from the owner of a small company and was told that his salesman, who lived in my area, would come over and set it up for me. I had a complex telephone system and needed someone who had the expertise to figure out all the wiring on the telephones and on the answering machine. His salesman never called and never showed up.
I called the owner and asked him when I could expect someone to come over to set up the machine. He told me his salesman had just quit but that I should be able to figure it out for myself or call the telephone company to come out to do it. Since neither of these options was acceptable, I told him that I was going to return his machine and I wanted a refund.
He was furious with me and started talking at breakneck speed and wouldn't listen to anything I was saying. My mind went into freeze mode so I kept quiet. After twenty minutes of fuming and raging, he finally stopped and asked if I was still there. I told him I was and he asked why I hadn't said anything. I told him I was just listening to him, and I would respond when he had said everything he wanted to say. When he said that he was finished, I told him that the terms of our agreement were that his salesman would come to the house and figure out how to set up this complex answering system and that he sold it to me knowing that I couldn't do it on my own. Very reluctantly, he told me he would make arrangements with his brother-in-law, who was a retired engineer, to come to the house and set it up.
After that, I realized that a certain type of silence was a very effective tool in winning an argument. It wasn't just silence, it was silence combined with listening so carefully, I could almost repeat what he said verbatim. You would be surprised how formidable a tool that can be. It seemed as though no one had ever really listened to him before.
The next time I used that technique, I had purchased something at one of the small neighborhood stores and had paid extra to have them mail it out for next day delivery. Two days later, the recipient still hadn't received it. I went back to the store and asked them to refund my money. The owner didn't want to do that and he told me the mixup was the fault of the post office. I tried to have this rational discussion with him and he just kept interrupting and overriding everything I said, so finally I stopped talking and just listened. I kept looking at him very intently and let him speak until he ran out of steam. Then I told him that I had made the arrangements with him and not the post office and I wanted my money back because he failed to live up to his end of the agreement. I showed him my receipt (I had also made a photocopy in case anything happened to the original) and eventually he refunded my money.
A large part of winning this type of argument is to make sure I have everything in writing before handing over my money. Since that doesn't always work, I rely on my ability to listen intently to what someone is saying so they feel that they have my complete attention. This is especially true if someone keeps interrupting or trying to drown out my words or telling me repeatedly that this isn't the company's policy. I let them get it all out of their system and when they feel that I am giving them quality time and showing them respect and valuing their opinion, they are usually very accommodating and let me win my argument.