When most of us think of argument, we think about winners of arguments and losers of arguments. Arguments, even sometimes academic arguments, can be strong and forceful. An Aristotelian or classical argument is a strong, “this is my assertion and here’s why I am right” kind of argument. But that kind of argument isn’t going to work in all situations. When your audience is a really difficult one in the sense that you know your audience isn’t going to completely agree with your side of the issue, it can be a good idea to try to find a middle ground. The Rogerian argument finds that middle ground.
Based on the work of psychologist Carl Rogers(pictured on the right), a Rogerian argument focuses on finding a middle ground between the author and the audience. This type of argument can be extremely persuasive and can help you, as a writer, understand your own biases and how you might work to find common ground with others.
Here is a summary of the basic strategy for a Rogerian argument, and the infographic on the following page should be helpful as well.
- In your essay, first, introduce the problem.
- Acknowledge the other side before you present your side of the issue. This may take several paragraphs.
- Next, you should carefully present your side of the issue in a way that does not dismiss the other side. This may also take several paragraphs.
- You should then work to bring the two sides together. Help your audience see the benefits of the middle ground. Make your proposal for the middle ground here, and be sure to use an even, respectful tone. This should be a key focus of your essay and may take several paragraphs.
- Finally, in your conclusion, remind your audience of the balanced perspective you have presented and make it clear how both sides benefit when they meet in the middle.
For a visual representation of this type of argument, check out the Rogerian infographic on the next page.
ECHO: Rogerian Argument Outline
Purpose: Help people with differing opinions understand each others views and reduce conflict. The key is to acknowledge the discord between the two sides of an issue and reach common ground. It is useful in psychological and emotional arguments where pathos (values & beliefs) and ethos (credibility) are predominant.
- State the problem to be resolved giving opposing views - be objective, neutral, and accurate.
- State the issue as a question
- Examine key points that support one side of the issue. Acknowledge these differing viewpoints have merit within particular contexts. Educate the reader and verify that you as the arguer understand the opposing view correctly. (cite supporting evidence)
- Examine the points that support an alternative (opposing) position. This is the meat of the paper. Explain the key evidence which supports the reasons you have for choosing your stance, while maintaining neutrality.
- Find common ground. Achieve dialogue during the process of discovery to establish trust. The result is change for both sides.
- This step is essential for the success of the Rogerian method.
- Use transitional phrases such as: On the other hand….. Critics argue….. Many persons strongly oppose …. to prepare the reader for a change in position.
- Present a fair and concise summary of the strongest points of both sides of the argument. Craft a resolution that takes the best from both sides and offers conformity. The solution should satisfy all parties.