Anyone who's so much as glanced at a YouTube comments section will know the internet loves a good bicker. A casual observation posted to Facebook can leave you neck deep in outrage, cynicism and on the wrong end of a comparison with Hitler.
So you'll undoubtedly appreciate the research of Cornell University students that promises to greatly enhance your ability to "win" online arguments - and do a great deal better in real-life confrontation.
The researchers analysed a data set gathered from two years of debate on the Reddit thread ChangeMyView - a fertile source of online spats. The researchers set to identify the "mechanisms of persuasion" that users would employ to shift the opinion of others. By monitoring variables such as use of language, points when people entered an argument and the degree of back-and-forth exchange, the researchers were able to outline some key elements of winning an online bout.
Here are their findings in summary:
- Join the argument early. In arguments that attracted as many as 10 participants, the first two "challengers" were three times more likely to see their point win out.
- Look to use different language to view first offered. That doesn't mean you should reply to English in French - but that if you look to use a different set of descriptors or change the tone of an argument with a different lexicon, you'd stand a significant chance of winning the day. Keep a thesaurus to hand.
- Stay calm, and don't attempt to be overly "happy". An argument carried more weight if the individual took time with their response, and didn't try to keep things too up-beat.
- If someone's using first person plural pronouns ("we", "us"), get out of there. The study found that this sort of language is usually linked to someone who doesn't have a malleable point of view.
- Back up your points. Which might sound obvious, but many would wade into arguments without having further evidence or sources to lend weight to their point of view. If you're just shouting off an opinion you made up on the spot, you won't do well.
So no, you're not win an argument with your other half about whether your neighbour's dog is called Muttley or Matt - but you will win an argument as to why Labradors are a better breed than terriers.
They just are, okay?