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A Quick Look at Three Argument Styles
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 05/30/2011

Argument Differences of opinion are large part of the workplace today. By and large, most of us are not forced to engage in defending a position on a day-to-day basis. Of course, in corrections, some offenders excel at argument techniques that can knock the coolest staff member off their square.

Right is right. And there are many different parts of the truth. What I am addressing is when someone obstinately adheres to position despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Three styles that prime arguers utilize are loud, persistent, and contrary.

Loud – There is nothing like volume to dominate an argument. For this type of antagonist, where quiet truth exists, loud arguments flourish. This tactic is like a sonic bulldozer, paving the way to a goal through vociferous force.

Persistent – Some people ask the same questions multiple times, stopping only when the answer they seek is obtained. If someone needs to hear that the sky is purple, they will continue to ask – even though the correct answer is obviously blue. It does not matter that the answer blue is consistently delivered. To those who use the persistence tactic, it is just a matter of wearing down the opposing party with an identical query.

Contrary – Sometimes, the point of contention is not really addressed. Those who use a contrary method simply negate all that is offered by the opposing party this is typically a purposeful juxtaposition meant to build the stone wall of opposition. In other words, this is argument for the sake of argument. To the contrarian, it's not about being right necessarily. It is about fueling antagonisms and perpetuating argument.

There's no question that almost all corrections veterans will encounter one or all of these types. It can be conceded that not all countermeasures will work all of the time. Are there ways beyond the direct order to disarm the argumentative? Here are some suggestions:
  1. Remember that loud, persistent and contrary do not necessarily equal correct. Stick to your guns when you are correct. The force of an opponent's argument does not make it true.
  2. Sometimes, the answer does not matter. It even may be generally regarded as trivial. There's a time when you do not need to participate. If it is a non-work matter and can be withdrawn, it may be best to do so.
  3. Concentrate on the topic at hand not the tangential arguments.
  4. Do not argue with offenders. Keep a lid on it and issue discipline if necessary.
  5. Sometimes, one has to answer loud with loud. It is best to know what times this is useful and appropriate. The longer a loud exchange continues, the greater power the antagonist gains.
  6. Match patients for patients with the persistent variety of arguer.
  7. The contrarian probably wants you to negate his assertions. Avoid this
  8. Always follow policy and procedure when communicating with offenders.
  9. Know your environment. The argument may really mean nothing to the offender. It may be part of a well-crafted diversion.
  10. Compare notes with colleagues. Listen to how others handled contentious offenders. Perhaps you can ascertain patterns. When is a prisoner most likely to argue? Are there certain staff types with whom the personal argue?

There is no doubt about it. As long as human beings communicate, there will be arguments. And then the often contentious world of corrections, we need to be aware of the many argument types. The LPC variety of argument techniques (loud, persistent, contrary) have probably been around since the beginning of time. In the interest of safety for all in the facility, it is useful to know how to defuse.

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