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Writing Program

Handling Opposition

Dominique Battles, English
Paul Battles, English

Who is the Opposition? Anyone who disagrees or might disagree with the position you take.

Why is the Opposition important in writing? Much of what go into print comes about because people disagree. The Opposition is useful to keep in mind as you write because it forces you to define your position, to think through your claims, and to support those claims with sufficient evidence. A hostile reader is often the most formative one for the student. If you're struggling to figure out what you're trying to say, you might start by asking yourself "What am I arguing against?"

The Rogerian Strategy

What is it? Named after Carl Rogers, the man who developed the concept, the Rogerian Strategy works on the premise that the goal of argumentation should be to reduce conflict, rather than to produce a "winner" and "loser." It adopts a respectful, conciliatory posture - one that demonstrates a real understanding of opposing views, and one that emphasizes shared interests and values.

How do we apply the Rogerian Strategy?

  1. Understand the Opposition. Why do they hold the views they do?
  2. Summarize the Opposition in an unbiased way, in a way the opposing side would approve of.
  3. Make concessions to the Opposition by acknowledging the validity of at least part of the opposing argument.
  4. Find some areas of common ground on which both sides can agree.
  5. Present evidence to support your argument.

Simple Opposition: Opposition involving one main point. Summarize that main point in one paragraph, generally in the first body paragraph following the Introduction. Following the Opposition Paragraph, once or twice in the remainder of the paper, make a one-sentence concession to the Opposition. Ex. "While so-and-so raises an important point in arguing for..., nevertheless..." or "To be sure, one could argue..., however..."

Complex Opposition: Opposition involving several points. In this case, you can use these points to organize your essay, devoting one paragraph to each point. Begin each paragraph with a statement of each point followed by your rebuttal.