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How To Be Persuasive

By Wes Boyer and Samuel Stoddard

Tired of losing arguments? Tired of being outmaneuvered by superior debaters? You don't have to be! This tutorial will teach you everything you need to know about being persuasive and winning arguments. Take the principles in this tutorial to heart, and you'll be able to convince anyone to believe anything. Even the resolve of the most stubborn of opponents will crumble before you.

What Is Persuasion?

Persuasion is the act of getting a sentient being other than yourself to adopt a particular belief or pursue a particular action. This tutorial will teach you how to excel at doing just that. Our examples will assume a variety of different specific circumstances, but the principles we present will be applicable in a myriad of situations. Whether you're trying to persuade a pseudo-intellectual that his political beliefs are, in fact, as savory as unwashed socks, or whether you're trying to persuade a vicious dog to please kindly release your coccyx, the techniques of persuasion you must employ are fundamentally the same.

To be persuasive, you must make use of a number of different tactics. The more you can utilize in conjunction with each other, the more persuasive your argument will be. We will start by isolating and identifying each of the different techniques, and then we'll show how they can be used together in a single compelling argument.

Verbal Techniques

As debating is primarily a verbal undertaking, most of the techniques you will need are verbal in nature. We'll start with those, then look at how you can polish off your style with other types of techniques.


The cornerstone of good persuasive arguing is stubbornness. You must never, under any circumstances, concede that your opponent might ever possibly be right. Openmindedness has led to the downfall of many great debaters. If you find yourself doubting the correctness of your position, don't let it show. Repeat to yourself, "I am right. I am right." If you can't convince yourself that you're right, you'll never convince others that they're wrong. Here is an example of the use of stubbornness in a debate:

Strategic Compromise

Compromise would seem to be prohibited by the previous tip about stubbornness, but it's not, because you should only use compromise as a diversionary tactic. Don't ever compromise your main point. But if you introduce points you don't even care about, then compromise on them later, you can often trick your opponent into conceding. For example:

Big Words

Use of big words is persuasive several times over. They make you look all smart and other people look all stupid; hence, your argument becomes the more compelling. Furthermore, use of big words means you'll talk longer, and usually whoever talks the most is the most convincing. "Wow, look at all he has to say about this," people will say to themselves as they observe you making a protracted argument. "He must know a lot about this subject."

By way of example, compare the persuasiveness of the following two statements:


Forgetfulness is a powerful debating tool. You must use this tool wisely, because it can be a devastating weapon in your fight against ignorance. Here is what you should do: in the middle of your argument, forget what you're talking about. This may sound counterproductive, but by forgetting your point you show the person you're debating with that he is so utterly wrong, it's not worth the trouble to follow the course of the conversation. For example:


Talk relentlessly, especially when your opponent is also trying to talk. Interrupt constantly. If you never give your opposition a chance to give the other side, you win by default.


Facts might be the best way to substantiate an argument, but lies are the next best thing. If the facts don't prove your point, make some up.

There are varying degrees of lies. A "fib" is a small exaggeration of the truth. A "hyperbole" is a larger exaggeration of the truth. A "lie" is a statement that has nothing whatsoever to do with the truth. A "big lie" is not only blatantly untrue but will cause your great grandmother to roll over in her grave with shame.

The big lie is normally the way to go.


No persuasive argument would be complete without a little rhyming. Not only does it make you sound clever, but, when used correctly, it can make your opponent sound ignorant. To employ this amazing persuasive tool, you take one of your opponent's points and make up a nonsensical rhyming word to go with it. This tactic has no known refutation.


Taunting is a crucial element of a persuasive argument. The purpose of taunting your opponent is to intimidate him into submission.

Random Comments

The interjection of random comments is a useful diversionary tactic. Although the best way to win an argument is for your opponents to concede the debate to you, this last ditch effort can be used in an emergency to secure a secondary victory by disorienting your opponents so much they don't know how to proceed. This tactic has the side benefit of presenting yourself as knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects, so observers are bound to be impressed by your breadth of expertise.


When in doubt, say "clearly." It may not be clear, but your opposition doesn't know that. By offhandedly suggesting that a particular train of thought is obvious to you, you will come across as a daunting force of intelligence difficult to reckon with.

Subliminal Messages

Subliminal messages are important components of a persuasive argument. Why? Because subliminal messages cannot be argued. If your opponent doesn't know you are suggesting things to his subconscious mind, what possible rebuttal can he have? Convey subliminal messages by whispering under your breath quietly enough so that your opponent does not consciously hear.

The Last Word

Above all, you must get the last word. Getting the last word in an argument is terribly important, because it means everyone listening to the argument -- both those involved and those observing -- will leave with the last word as the dominant memory of the debate. If you have the last word, that means your side will be the most remembered. For example:

This certainly looks like an argument you've lost, doesn't it? But consider how much stronger a case you make for yourself with this slight modification:

Name Calling

Name calling is an efficient way of pointing out your opponents' weaknesses and call into question the authority with which they dispute your position. By encouraging your opponents to doubt their competence, you can undermine a contrary argument from the inside. For example:


Yelling is one of the most instinctive and exciting methods of getting your point across. It is also very effective. When you yell, you gain people's respect and awe. The louder you yell, the more respect you incur. When yelling, remember three rules:

  1. Be loud loud loud. If you aren't loud, you aren't yelling.
  2. Accompany your yelling with eye bulging. The further out of your head your eyes bulge, the more effective the yell.
  3. Turn red. Red is a color of power. The redder you get, the more power you have. Observe the logo for this tutorial, at the top of this page. Notice how compelling the 'a' is, because it is red? The other letters are quiescent and relatively nondescript. But you wouldn't want to tangle with that 'a', would you?

Witness the following use of the yelling tactic:


Swearing is absolutely crucial if you want to convince someone of something. Swearing is a sign of great articulation, vocabulary, and bravado. By swearing, you can demonstrate that you are mature, for you understand mature concepts, and that you are daring enough to thwart the oppression of social convention.

Physical Techniques

Even the most solidly constructed verbal arguments can crumble if your physical stature is not imposing enough to back it up. Here we will discuss how you can use body language to support your arguments.

Flailing Arms

The flailing arms strategy is used to express surprise and to reinforce your arguments. It's very hard to disagree with someone who waves his arms in confidence. For example:

Being Tall

Physical stature is an important intimidation tool. Your opponent is more likely to concede an argument if you appear to be bigger than he is. Shortness is associated with children, who are dumb, while tallness is associated with authority figures who know better. Consequently, you should never debate someone at anything less than eye level. If your opponent is sitting, stand. If your opponent is standing, stand taller. Wear thick-soled shoes. Stand on tip-toes. Stand on chairs if you have to.

Another effective gesture you can make that increases the power of your presence is to make a fist with one hand and ominously punch the open palm of your other hand.

Here is an example of how physical intimidation can sway the course of a debate:


Biting is a last ditch effort. You use this tactic when the other person has been given every opportunity to conform to your opinion and still refuses. It is normally best to go for an important artery or organ. The jugular vein is recommended, as it is located roughly at mouth height.

Using These Techniques Together

Here is a sample debate that illustrates each of the techinques given above. Notice how, when used in conjunction with one another, you can create an unstoppable argument.

If you liked How To Be Persuasive, try our companion features:

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