Anticipating Opposition


One essential characteristic of argument is your sense of an adversary. You aren't simply explaining a concept to someone who will hear you out and accept or reject your idea on its merit. Argument assumes active opposition to your proposition. To win acceptance, then, you must not only explain and support your proposition, but also anticipate and overcome objections that the opposition might raise.  If you were just "preaching to the choir" you'd be informing your audience, not persuading them.


Don't try to look good by mentioning only weaker opposition arguments. When you work on the con side, see the issue through your opponents' eyes, and draw out the most telling arguments they could use against you. Then, when you've finished your pros and cons, look back to see if your proposition needs revision.


When making a persuasive argument, consider using the outline below:


1.  Main Argument / Thesis:  George Bush should be re-elected to the White House because he has made the world a safer place in relation to terrorism


2.  Present opposing points to frame your own support:  Choose three or more opposing positions to use as main points of support for your own argument.  Then, open your own supporting statements by first presenting opposition.


A.       The war was based on falsified intelligence information regarding weapons of mass destruction.  


B.        He makes America look like a rogue nation.


C.        Patriot act is unconstitutional and invades the privacy and rights of American citizens.


3.  Present support for your argument:  frame your support as a way to refute the claims against your position.  Each point of opposition becomes a main body paragraph or main point for a speech:


A.       S. Hussein may not have been a threat to the entire world, but past facts / issues point to his inhumane dictatorship and that he was a threat to his own people.  Give facts / quotes to prove.


B.        Opponents don’t like the fact that going into Iraq has been an independent decision.  Bush went against the grain and did what was right for an entire country of people. Give facts / quotes to prove.


C.        The patriot act protects U.S. citizens in America.  Individuals need to decide what is more important—minor freedoms, or intense, national threats.  Give facts / quotes to prove.


Try to figure out how an opponent to your argument would respond after hearing your argument.  The goal is to try to anticipate what they would say to you and to “cut them off at the pass” and ultimately get opponents to think alternatively about their views on the subject.  Persuasion isn't always about converting your audience in one sitting as much as it is about complicating seemingly "black and white" issues.