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How to Win an Argument Like Jesus

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Imagine arriving at the coffee pot to pour your morning coffee when, rather than receiving the traditional greeting, you are backed against the wall by some HDIs (highly disgruntled individuals) because you made a really unpopular decision, and now you’ve got to dig your way out… As executives and managers, and simply even spouses and parents, many find themselves in this very position at seemingly the most inopportune times, attempting to dodge the questions, stares, and proverbial knives in the back from once-trusting followers and supporters. Through it all, there’s a felt urgency to secure mutual understanding from sound reasoning.

Let me introduce you to one method (of many!) that Jesus incorporated on such a day when he was accused of hanging out with the local riffraff. News of his activity transmitted quickly through the ranks of religious leaders by way of a professional form of whisper down the alley, ultimately coming to his attention. Based on all of the facts in Luke chapter 15, Jesus stood guilty as charged. Caught with dirt on his robe. Cornered.

Why would he do this?

If the sport was boxing, Jesus’ response could be compared to a fade, fade, hook approach. Using three short parables, he presented two agreed-upon facts, drawing his accusers in, then unloaded the totality of his reasoning with the surprise hook, an Uber Action Bombshell (UAB), where there’s no way out but to admit the validity of the reasoning and/or its call to action.

Here’s a quick diagram of the conversation:

  • Accusation – This man who claims to be holy eats with the filth of society.
  • Fade/Agreed Fact #1 – If you had 100 sheep and one strayed away, would you search until you found it?
    Result: Stepping in with, “Yes. Who wouldn’t?”
  • Fade/Agreed Fact #2 – If you had ten valuable silver coins and one was lost in your house, would you search until you found it?
    Result: Stepping in with, “Yes, we all would!”
  • Hook/UAB – If God, the Creator and Father of mankind, is searching for your lost brother to be restored to the family, shouldn’t you be seeking for him to come home, too?
    Result: Knock out! “We’ve placed personal rules of piety over our love for others; we’re not on the same mission as the Father.”

Jesus chose not to retreat, but he drew his attackers in for a closer look, agreeing with his presented thoughts; then he delivered a final and necessary piece for them to grasp his perspective. While the world knows him for his meekness, he certainly didn’t allow himself to get trampled on this one.

Here are a few tips on how you can restore confidence in your discussions about difficult decisions:

  • Honesty. Be honest with yourself regarding your decisions. Do you have logical reasoning and sound advice to move forward this way? If not, defending your view with this method would only serve to expose your inaccuracies and threaten your authority. Consider a little shadowboxing, sparring with yourself by asking what the fallout is going to be so you can prepare for the fade-fade-hook when it happens.
  • Purpose. Return to the purpose of your decision. Will your choice positively impact the whole of the team? Your purpose can form the underlying foundation for your arguments.
  • Creativity. In the questions Jesus asked, he spoke to elements that were highly important to Jewish culture – sheep and money. Consider your audience’s desires, not just your own. Too, positivity is almost always a good direction to take on this route.
  • Value Relationship. Use of this method, while silencing the discussion, should be to demonstrate sound reasoning, not to destroy relationships. Be sure to focus on the issues at hand, keeping them separate from individuals where possible.

Now, go out and make decisions with purpose; communicate them; and stand tall! … and be ready to roll up your sleeves a little when necessary.

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