Does the guy you’re arguing with have nice teeth? Maybe he’s an outstanding orator or just deeply passionate about his views. Perhaps he owns a sweet Christmas sweater.
Acknowledge what you like, what the audience likes; emphasize the positive.
Too often in arguments, we focus on “winning” or dominating our opponents. We want to make them look bad because, by contrast, we look good. This stirs up feelings of anger and aggression or sometimes fear and hatred. It’s us vs them! Aside from having detrimental effects on your poise, this attitude can harm your ethos and make you an ineffective rhetor.
Remember: the goal of your rhetoric is not “to win” but, instead, to achieve a certain goal. If you can “lose” the argument but still accomplish that goal, then what does “winning” really get you?
Learning to be a better rhetor means recognizing what’s in your long-term self-interest. Making someone look bad might make you feel good in the moment, but it’s not an effective strategy for growing your ethos, the most precious currency in your rhetorical vault.
One of the most counter-intuitive but effective ways to boost ethos is by complimenting your opponent and your audience…and meaning it!
Here’s why and how: