Don’t weaken your argument by adding auxiliary, weak points.

“A weak argument generally dilutes a strong one.” Neil Rackham

What’s wrong with these arguments?

Husband — I think the time is right for us to buy a new car. The model we want is on sale this month, we have the money set aside to pay cash, we’ll save money on car repairs, and a new car will make our garage look better.

Employee — We shouldn’t include this product in our catalog. It doesn’t meet our standard of quality, our profit margin would be small, and Christmas is on a Monday this year.

Bob — I don’t like Picasso’s art. It’s very abstract and I prefer realistic art. That’s why most people don’t enjoy his art. 

In each instance, the speaker is building a solid argument but then sabotages it by unnecessarily adding an incredulous point. Each speaker should have left off the final phrase. If I heard these statements I would be compelled to comment on the confusing and faulty last statements. These obviously uninformed final phrases would even cause me to question the integrity of the entire argument as well as the thinking ability of the speaker. 

I hear this mistake made often. Someone begins to construct a reasonable proposition but then, in an attempt to further strengthen his case, adds on weak, even indefensible points that dilute the argument and may cause people to totally dismiss the proposition.

When making a case, or just expressing an opinion, limit your supporting evidence to solid, rational statements. Don’t add feeble, irrelevant, or questionable statements because instead of strengthening your position, they weaken it.

What do you think?


14 Replies to “Don’t weaken your argument by adding auxiliary, weak points.”

  1. Ha! I grew up in a Greek family…you’ve accurately described our family dinner table conversations.

    I’m 75 years old now, and still finding it tempting to “sell a position” by adding a “ridiculous point” to win the argument.

    Ahhhhh… Heaven awaits! Thanks for your insight.

    1. Thanks, Don. I can only imagine how invigorating conversations were around the dinner table when you were young. Don

  2. Makes sense: stick with the main point.

    People’s attention spans are typically low, and multitasking can distract them. (Can internally think about the bullet points but only include them if asked/necessary).

    1. Jan, thanks for responding. You’re right; a good argument is usually carried by one or two good points. Stick to those.

  3. I am sure your regular readers will immediately feel guilty that they have sometimes included one phrase/sentence too many.

    I like your illustrations but I am not sure that Bob’s argument meets the standard. It’s just his personal opinion. Unless this was a discussion with someone who understood art, what does it achieve?

    Thanks for making me think!

  4. Don, you’ve convinced me that a weak argument weakens a strong case; your facts are solid, human nature confirms your conclusions, and your spelling is really good. ?

  5. I thought this very interesting. As God’s Word says, let your words be few, and even a fool is thought wise when he doesn’t speak. So adding more thoughts, or just one last phrase, unrelated, is, as this author says, not wise. Loved this. Kay Estes

  6. I see this done a lot in political discussions. Individual’s have a strong philosophical argument but rather than sticking to the facts they try to bolster their case by getting into conspiracy discussions with little or no proof. This weakens their overall argument and will cause those who do not believe their particular conspiracy theory to disregard the initial strong points in their argument.

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