Today is the birthday of American psychologist Carl R. Rogers (1902-1987) who was born in Oak Park, Illinois.
As a psychologist and therapist, Rogers was interested in improving human relationships. For Rogers, the major factor in healthy relationships was clear communication, which is often hindered by the tendency of people to judge each other. Roger’s mission was to help people set aside their evaluations of one another and to instead truly listen to each other. For Rogers, truly listening was more than just trying to understand another person’s point of view; instead, it involved climbing into that person’s skin and trying to not only see the world from that person’s perspective, but also to achieve an understanding of what it feels like to hold that person’s point of view.
Roger’s work in psychology and communication spilled over into the field of rhetoric and argument in 1970 with publication of the book Rhetoric: Discovery and Change by Richard Young, Alton Becker, and Kenneth Pike. This book introduced the Rogerian model for argument.
Unlike the long tradition of adversarial argument dating back to Aristotle, Rogerian argumentation is about finding the truth and about finding common ground. Instead of combative debate, the goal of a Rogerian argument is to acknowledge the validity of the opposing side’s position, setting aside emotional appeals and instead working to reach agreement (1).
While there is no specific structure that must be following in a Rogerian argument, the following basic moves should be included:
- State the issue or problem using neutral, nonjudgmental language, including the impact of the issue on both sides.
- Describe the opposing side of the argument as objectively and fairly as possible, acknowledging the validity of its support and evidence.
- Present your argument, support, and evidence in dispassionate language, striving for a fair and balanced tone.
- Find common ground between the opposing sides, considering alternative solutions and achieving a beneficial compromise (2).
Today’s Challenge: I See Your Point
What is a current issue or contemporary problem that you could present in a Rogerian argument? How would you in a fair and balanced way summarize the side of the argument that is opposite to yours? Select an issue that you feel strongly about. Instead of writing your side of the argument, attempt to summarize the opposing side of the argument as fairly and objectively as you can. As you write, maintain a tone that is fair and balanced. Strive to truly capture the arguments that run counter to yours. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)
Quotation of the Day: . . . if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view–until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. -Atticus to Scout in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
1- Brent, Douglas. Rogerian Rhetoric. An Alternative to Traditional Rhetoric. http://people.ucalgary.ca/~dabrent/art/rogchap.html.
2-Moxley, Joe. Rogerian Argument. Writing Commons. 17 Dec. 2010.