How to stop arguing and actually change someone’s mind on social media

There are ways to get your point across more effectively. Avoid shouting into the abyss and follow these steps to become a master persuader

Whenever a major story transgress in the social media age, from the supreme court judgement on article 50 to the news that roasted potatoes can apparently cause cancer it triggers a heated debate. And in this post-truth world of alternative facts even the US president conducts his battles on Twitter. But what if youre less interested in just hollering your view and actually want to try to change people minds?

The basics

Is there a way to argue more effectively on social media? Yes, there is, says Sean Jones, an employment and sports statute QC, but we might need to change our tactics. He indicates learning from his mistakes. Before I became a barrister, I was convinced I was brilliant at argument, says Jones. I found that a relentless condescension, refusal to concede any phase and a tireless determination to prolong the dispute reliably wore out adversaries. They walked away leaving me the victor.

Sounds like a lot of debate online? Thats not surprising. Bullying people into silence, as can happen on Twitter, turns out to be a very poor style to persuade them you are right, he says. I soon realised that my job was about persuading people.

To do this, we can to follow a simple formula that works for arguments and then apply it to social media. Lady Helena Kennedy QC says: I always think the best route to make an debate is to use the acronym Prep. Position, example, reason, repeat position.


So, first, Jones says, ask yourself what is the point of the argument. Generally, you want to end up stood together on common ground, so look for what common ground exists and run from there. Next, leading with your best point. Lawrence Winston, head of litigation at statute firm Squire Patton Boggs, says: Keep it as simple as possible. The more detailed you make it, the more punch youll take out of your point. Once the debate has got running, keep focused and dont be repetition. Dont send 20 tweets saying the same thing.

And dont get distracted. Deal with one point at a time. People who feel a pillar of their argument crumble will leap to another. Make sure a move to a different phase is recognise, adds Jones.


Be prepared to be the one answering questions and justifying your view, ideally with facts and figures. Many Twitter exchanges begin with an arm-wrestle over who must justify their position, continues Jones. If your position is justified, dont be afraid to accept the burden. In fact, taking that more confident approach can help, even if you dont know your facts, according to research. A examine published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes indicates people will believe a confident speaker before they believe someone more knowledgeable. However, it is better to engage only when you know your example. Dont bluff or seem to be an expert on things you dont know you need to have at least some relevant facts or experience, says Joanne Harris, bestselling writer and active Twitter user..

Reason/ and be reasonable to others

Make your main point and then add to your argument with short additions to further the debate. Winston says: Sending bullet points can be more effective than a series of tweets with a longer message and make sure you stay believable.

If anyones reacting seriously, remember that they may be misinterpreting you even if you try and make it clearer by adding emoticons, says Dr Sam Roberts, senior lecturer in psychology at Chester University. The people you are arguing with cant see your facial expressions or hear the tone of your voice. People cant always tell if youre being lighthearted or voicing a serious notion. So, aim for clarity, he says, and explain what you mean.

Remember, however, that occasionally your adversary is likely to be engaging with you just for a reaction and it goes without saying that you shouldnt get personal, even if youre provoked. Bear in intellect that you may be dealing with person with mental health issues, says Harris. So do no damage. And dont say anything to anyone that you wouldnt say to them directly. Screaming on Twitter isnt the same as wailing at the TV.

Repeat stance

When youve induced your points, recur your position and move on. Much of the debate on Twitter is never resolved and the chances are your exchange will probably objective before they have been persuaded. Be courteous and thank them for talking. You are more likely to resume constructively, says Jones. If your debate is not going well, learn to spot when its pointless continuing. Harris says: Bear in intellect that however much you try, some people will never listen. Dont waste too much day with these people.

Remember that if someone maintains tweeting you, you dont have to respond. You could consider blocking them, ignoring them or if all else fails, send them one of Joness Error Codes.

Selective exposure

If youre serious about being truly open-minded, you might need to check your adherents. People on Twitter suffer from what researchers call selective exposure. In conflicts, users are more willing to share and to communicate with their ideological friends than foes, according to a study from the Pennsylvania State University[ PDF ]. This is where you are surrounded by the individuals who agree with you and your views become entrenched.

Follow people who disagree with you and listen to them, concludes Jones. An advocate wants every aspect of their lawsuit tested. And “youve never” know, it might be you wholl objective up convinced.

Read more: