Rogerian argument – Definition and introduction

Published by at November 1st, 2021 , Revised On November 12, 2021

An argument is a natural part of everyday life. It’s an essential kind of communication because it not only involves an exchange of ideas, worldviews and opinions, but, via negotiation, leads to the resolution of problems prevalent in society, the establishment of common interests, and cooperation between otherwise opposing parties.

Even though it might drive you insane, argumentation is a necessary evil of sorts. In time, you get to reap its benefits. And those benefits aren’t just restricted to the business world, strictly speaking.

They can even revolve around getting things you want in everyday life, such as convincing your boss to increase your pay, proving to the interviewer why you’re more suitable for the job than others, getting a teacher to give you less work, etc.

All types of arguments are, in the end, a form of persuasion to get what we need. The power of persuasion, after all, goes a long way. So, let’s look at a significant type of argument: The Rogerian view. We shall briefly introduce its definition, structure, format, and some examples to help bring all the points home.

Rogerian argument – definition

 

Simply put, a Rogerian argument is a negotiation technique in which common viewpoints and goals are identified. Opposing views and plans are also recognized, and using a logical approach, common ground is reached to resolve those differences and reach an agreement. This strategy is used mainly in business.

The Rogerian argument also goes by the names of Rogerian argumentation, Rogerian persuasion, Rogerian rhetoric, and empathic listening.

Introduced by

In their textbook “Rhetoric: Discovery and Change” (1970), scholars Kenneth Pike, Alton Becker, and Richard Young adapted the work of Carl Rogers—an American psychologist—to present the model of Rogerian argument. The term Rogerian argument was popularized in the 1970s and 1980s primarily for studying and teaching rhetoric and argumentation.

Rogerian argument – aims

As presented by its proponents in “Rhetoric: Discovery and Change:”

The writer who uses the Rogerian strategy attempts to do three things: (1) to convey to the reader that he is understood, (2) to delineate the area within which he believes the reader’s position to be valid, and (3) to induce him to believe that he and the writer share similar moral qualities (honesty, integrity, and good will) and aspirations (the desire to discover a mutually acceptable solution).

“We stress here that these are only tasks, not stages of the argument. Rogerian argument has no conventional structure; in fact, users of the strategy deliberately avoid conventional persuasive structures and techniques because these devices tend to produce a sense of threat, precisely what the writer seeks to overcome…”

Rogerian argument – structure and format

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The authors state that one might need to change a Rogerian argument format to reach common grounds. However, there is a standard Rogerian argument format to follow in any given situation.

When a case is presented, it’s done so in a flexible manner. That means it’s up to you how you organize and layout facts and/or information, as well as time spent on each section. Still, a balance has to be maintained in presenting different sections of your argument.

In his 1981 book, “Form and Substance: An Advanced Rhetoric,” author Richard M. Coe presented a Rogerian argument structure, which is described below. This is also the Rogerian argument outline:

  1. Rogerian argument introduction: You have to present your topic not as an unsolvable issue but as a problem to be solved collectively (by working with the opposing party).
  2. Opposition’s position: You need to state your opposition’s opinion(s) as objectively and logically as possible, such that it’s clear you understand its position.
  3. Opposition’s context: Based on you showing your opposition that you understand the circumstance(s) within which their position(s) is/are valid.

It’s important to note here that taking the time to state the opposition’s position and context ensures the opposition doesn’t get defensive or stops listening to your argument. It proves to them you understand their side of the story, where they come from, what they want, where their interests lie, and so on.

This is where Rogerian argument gets its other name—empathic listening—from. Furthermore, notice how the outline involves presenting your opposition’s position and context first, then your own. This part of the argument, if delivered flawlessly, can work greatly in your favor.

  1. Your position: Perhaps one of the most important parts of a Rogerian argument format, you need to describe your position as fairly, objectively, and accurately as you can, just as you presented your opposition’s argument. It would be best if you also convinced your opposition here as to why you think your argument is also valid.
  2. Your context: Just as you showed why your opposition’s argument is valid and under what circumstances, you need to do the same for your own argument. Try to convince the opposition of why and how your circumstances (context) are also valid.
  3. Benefits: The final and most important step is when you appeal to your opposition to show how aspects of your position—either in favor or in opposition to whatever the issue at hand is— can be made to benefit its interests.

As far as the Rogerian argument’s format goes, use one type of rhetoric while presenting your position with those who agree with you. But to discuss your position with the opposition, tone that down and break it into objective, rational elements so that your opposition is better able to identify common grounds of interests.

Rogerian argument – examples

Check out this video illustrating a Rogerian argument example in action related to salary negotiation during a job interview. Here is an example of a Rogerian argument paper. This Rogerian argument essay sample illustrates how to write a Rogerian argument. Furthermore, you can also find a list of Rogerian argument essay topics.

The use of Rogerian argument thesis is also effective in research and educational domains. Coe’s format mentioned above can be better illustrated through this Rogerian argument outline example.

Rogerian versus other types of arguments

There are, of course, other types of arguments for solving everyday life problems via cooperation. Whether it’s Rogerian argument versus traditional argument, Rogerian argument versus Toulmin argument, or Rogerian argument versus classical/western argument, there’s always a format to be followed, goals to be achieved, and resolutions to be arrived at.

Traditional argument versus rogerian argument

The most common type of argument mentioned with the Rogerian argument is the traditional argument. A Rogerian argument is different from traditional argumentation; the latter is aimed at winning.

In Rogerian argument, the aim isn’t to win but to resolve differences and reach mutual satisfaction for all parties involved. It’s even claimed that the Rogerian argument is an alternative to traditional argument.

To conclude

Rogerian argument is one of the types of negotiating strategies used to convey information/facts, similar opinions, identify differences with opposing parties and reach common goals – all to resolve a given problem in a certain context. It can be used effectively not just in business but also in other domains, including education.