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My last column was about a “straw man,” a person who tries to win arguments by misrepresenting the other person’s viewpoint.


An “iron man” is the opposite of a “straw man.” Instead of presenting someone’s argument in its weakest form, an “iron man” presents the other person’s argument in its strongest form.


“Iron men” assume the best of people. Rather than brushing off an argument and thinking the person is stupid, evil or dysfunctional, they assume the best and believe the person is intelligent with good intentions.


When people attack somebody’s character, too often they accuse the person of having a mental disorder just because they see things differently. (You can read about such attacks daily on the front page.) That is toxic to a healthy dialogue. If the attacker would be open-minded perhaps they would learn something new, change their mind or find common ground. 


The attitude that someone you disagree with is stupid, evil or dysfunctional blocks you from understanding another person’s viewpoint. You have no idea, and probably don’t care, where they are coming from.


Build an “iron man” argument by disagreeing without being negative. Why attack someone who has a different point of view?


Try to see things from multiple perspectives. Until you can properly empathize with another person and see things through their eyes you likely can’t fully understand their position.


Give people the benefit of the doubt. Be willing to learn something new. Ask genuine questions. Make note of their good points. Play devil’s advocate.


Building “iron man” arguments for opposing views is no easy task. It’s not natural for us to want to argue against things we normally believe. The next time you find yourself in a “straw man” debate step back and reconsider your position.




Be a sharper, more critical thinker. Learn to build “iron man” arguments. When you know what the best arguments are againstyour beliefs, your beliefs will be that much stronger.

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