How to Write a Rogerian Argument
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How to Write a Rogerian Argument

A Rogerian argument can help bring two sides together.

Psychologist Carl Rogers noticed how many times people argue with the attitude "I'm right, you're wrong." Neither side listens to the other and both sides become angry and defensive. The result is that people go away with bad feelings and nothing has been accomplished.

Rogers believed that educated people have "learned how to learn and change." He devised a method of argument that first tries to find common ground between two sides. It then develops a point of view with the other side's opinions still being considered.

For example, you might believe that dogs make better pets than cats, and you want to write a Rogerian argument for your view.

First introduce your subject:

Pets are very popular, and many people have them. Two of the most popular pets are dogs and cats.

Now find some common ground:

Both dogs and cats make wonderful pets. Both are good company. They like to be around people and they like to be petted. They both like to play and they're fun to watch. There are a lot of varieties of dogs and cats, and there's a dog or a cat that's right for just about everyone.

Now, even though you like dogs more, be fair and give cats some props:

Cats make good pets because they're very pretty. They're also quiet. They're easy to housetrain and don't have to be taken outside. It's easier to have multiple cats than multiple dogs, because cats are smaller and require less care. Cats like attention and are very soft and nice to pet.

This is when you can make your point:

However, I prefer dogs because dogs are more playful. I enjoy playing with my dog a lot. I also prefer my dog because I can take him for a walk and get some exercise. My dog makes me feel secure, because he's big and he barks when strangers come around the house. He loves attention and is always glad to see me. Sometimes I tell him my problems, and he really seems to listen. This is why I think dogs make better pets than cats.

Finally, it's good to conclude with a summing-up paragraph that pulls the discussion together:

Dogs and cats both have their good points, and many people like both. Dogs and cats will always be popular pets.

Of course, a Rogerian argument only works if both sides are willing to stay open-minded. But it seems that people nowadays, especially in politics, are very polarized and far too willing to demonize anyone who disagrees with them. It might be time to start taking a Rogerian approach to some issues that are more controversial and important than dogs and cats.

Picture from MorgueFile

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Comments (2)



In the therapeutic setting, Carl Rogers was best know for reflecting, or mirroring the client's feelings back to him, so that the latter felt he was being understood. This didn't work so well with psychotic or schizophrenic clients. When I was in graduate school, in Clinical Psychology, I watched a film of him interviewing a psychotic client in the hospital. It became evident, after a while, with the sweat pouring off Rogers, that he was mirroring delusions and confusion, in a circular conversation, which only added to the patient's anxiety, as I recall.

I also encountered a number of therapists, trying to use the technique, who only sounded like they were parroting what the client was saying. It's usually preceded by "what I hear you saying is...", with a repetition of the client's statement. It can become very irritating, to the point of the client responding "didn't I just say that?" Not a fan.

However, the technique you described is one I learned in a French composition class, in the 60's. The professor called it "thinking and debating like a Frenchman."