Take Your Arguments to the Next Level

Everybody loves to argue. Unfortunately, not everyone understands their own absence of understanding. As you listen to people argue, it always sounds as if everyone knows everything about the topic at hand. This behavior seems to come standard with humans, however, what kills me is how people never desire nor seem willing to take their argumentative skills to the next level. In fact, many people I listen to don’t even realize that “higher,” more sophisticated levels of argumentation exist, let alone how utterly “low” their abilities register on the scale. Thus, in an effort to inspire folks to improve their argumentative skillz, here is a rundown of several “key” benchmarks along the argumentation development spectrum..

Level One: Child’s Play
Level one encompasses the most rudimentary form of argumentation. Typical characteristics include yelling, one-syllable words, three-word sentences, and name calling. The downside: this type of arguing is completely self-centered, frequently disrespectful, and entirely predictable. The upside: with children, arguments are generally sincere. Listening to kids argue, you just know what’s coming next. The outcome: typically, screaming, fighting, and/or parent intervention.
Level Two: Teenage Wasteland
Level two covers argumentative discourse among some of the smartest, wisest people on earth: teenagers. Typical characteristics include long-winded monologues, illogical reasoning, and buckets of attitude. The downside: teenage-level argumentation is often contentious, disrespectful, and based on thin air. The upside: with teens, arguments may last for many hours, providing plenty of practice to those striving for higher levels of discourse. The outcome: usually, teenage-level argumentation results in insults, hurt-feelings, and increased stubbornness.
Level Three: Jerry Springer
Level three is really just an adult version of level two, or perhaps even level one. Symptoms include screaming, swearing, stupidity, and violence. The downside: although much of it is “hyped-up” and “turbo-charged” for television, there are droves of people who actually operate on this level by default. The upside: none, really — except perhaps that these people are usually pretty good at killing themselves off. The outcome: this type of arguing is socially contagious, ultimately serving to lower the quality of life for everyone.
Level Four: Completely Average
Level four finally breaks ground with some reasonably executed arguments. Typical characteristics include a sense of seriousness and practicality, followed by escalated tones and deteriorating civility. The downside: a majority of people never venture beyond this level of argumentation, and thus follow the script for every type of disagreement, regardless of circumstance. The upside: comfortable trade-off between effort and effectiveness. Having a de-facto standard way of dealing with conflict makes life easier for the endless fields of common folk. The outcome: generally, the average way of arguing yields results — there maybe hurt feelings and bruised egos along the way, and you may find yourself having gained absolutely nothing from the experience, but hey, it works.
Level Five: A Little Education
Level-five argumentation is generally seen among recent college graduates. Typical characteristics include attempted application of regurgitated facts and formulas. The downside: having obtained a little education, typical college graduates assume they are actually smarter than other people. The upside: any time spent exercising your brain (at school or otherwise) tends to improve the overall quality of conversational discourse. The outcome: as life goes on, rather than expanding their mental horizons, college graduates tend to reinforce ideas and opinions acquired during their education. Although entertaining to observe, arguments happening on level five rarely benefit anyone.
Level Six: Political Bureaucracy
Level six encompasses the monotonous, politically correct diatribes intended to persuade, convince and influence. Typical characteristics include mindless monologues and endless exchanges. The downside: driven by personal agendas, political arguments generally unfold slowly, predictably, and with immense disinterest. Arguing parties are more interested in hearing themselves talk than actually engaging in a meaningful, beneficial debate. The upside: this type of pretentious argumentation gives the quibbling hypocrites something to do. The outcome: typically, boredom, fatigue, nausea, and a whole lot of wasted time.
Level Seven: A Lot of Education
Level seven is seen among the academically privileged. Extensive education enables scholars to argue intelligently, especially concerning issues related to their primary field of study. Typical characteristics include verbose, convoluted arguments and well-executed deliveries. The downside: after investing thousands of dollars and many years in education, academic scholars eventually become “experts” in their fields, often basing their entire existence on a particular understanding of reality. Arguments with scholars may prove educational, but when careers and reputations are at stake, you may as well save your breath.
Level Eight: Seeking Knowledge
As we approach level eight, the number of active participants dwindles considerably. Those earnestly seeking knowledge, wisdom and understanding contribute to intriguing, insightful arguments. Typical characteristics include more questions than answers. Sincerity instead of attitude. Contemplation instead of assumption. The downside: there are not nearly enough people genuinely pursuing understanding and truth, and not nearly enough time for those that do. The upside: on this level, arguments unfold like collaborative philosophical explorations resonating with openness and enlightenment. The outcome: always a win-win situation.
Level Nine: Knowing Nothing
On level nine, things begin to get interesting. How do you argue with someone who understands, accepts and even embraces their own ignorance? You can’t. It is impossible to argue your point with someone who doesn’t disagree with you. Rather than argue their own opinion, those rare individuals who “know” that they do not know will openly listen to everything you can throw at them. Nothing to prove, nothing to argue — only receptive openness and sincerity. The beauty of the entire game is that, eventually, after hearing yourself arguing with the wind, you realize the foolishness of it all and decide to move on with your life. Sadly, 99% of the population has not yet encountered such an experience.
Level Ten: Knowing Something
There is only one who truly knows. Many will seek, but few will find. For this reason, stay open, alert, and seek understanding with every breath. You never know who may be listening.

Bottom line? Don’t worry about memorizing all of these different levels. Don’t worry about finding your exact location within the spectrum. Just be aware that the different levels exist, and that, regardless of where you are with your argumentative skills, there is always more to learn and higher levels for which to aspire. Next time you find yourself in the middle of some heated debate somewhere, remember the spectrum and try taking things to the next level.