Mahatma Gandhi and his Five Ways of Succeeding in an Argument

Mahatma Gandhi and his Five Ways of Succeeding in an Argument

Last update: 15 October, 2021

The life of Mahatma Gandhi was full of wise stories and anecdotes concerning confrontation. As a matter of fact, he rose to fame and went down in history as the first to start a “war” without any violence.

It’s said that he once sat down to eat next to a professor at the University of London. The teacher asked him to leave, stating that “a pig and a bird cannot sit together to eat”. Gandhi got up and said: “You do not worry professor, I’ll  fly away.”

The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.”

-Joseph Joubert-

Gandhi almost always got his way in discussions. However, he did it with such intelligence and grace, that he usually ended up teaching something to his opponent. Indeed, his aim, rather than winning an argument, was to learn from it. Here are some of the ways he suggested to succeed in an argument.

Don’t be selfish and argue solidly

For Mahatma Gandhi, any perspective on a problem needed to also take into account the state of the opponent. With this idea in mind, he destroyed the monopoly of the British textile industry at the time. Then, he went to each of the factories to apologize for the dismissals he’d caused.

Gandhi's three thoughts that contributed to a better world

Gandhi thoroughly studied each topic he was interested in. He wasn’t content with having a superficial view of the world. He read, he delved, and he asked. All of this allowed him to form an informed and solid opinion on any matter. Without a doubt, this is the key to facing any debate.

Train physical strength and patience

Gandhi considered that the strength of the body decisively contributes to the strength of the mind. Therefore, he kept himself in good physical shape. This allowed him to endure hard times with an amazing capacity for recovery. Indeed, training the body provides temperance, strengthening of will, and self-control.

On the other hand, patience is the training of the mind. Gandhi said that a wall must be built brick by brick. Furthermore, that each piece has a moment to settle in place. Patience is a trait of the strongest minds. Not giving in on the first impulse is the key to success, especially in a confrontation.

Empathize with the other, get involved with their emotions

Gandhi broadcast universal ideas. His principles weren’t the product of a localist or whimsical vision. Quite the opposite. In his ideas and his struggle, all humanity was present. As a matter of fact, his doctrine focused firstly on his own people, but was also inspired by universal values.


This leader gave an important place to emotions. His speech wasn’t purely ideological. In fact, he always tried to understand the position of his opponents and took into account how they might be feeling. That’s why hundreds of thousands of people in the world followed and admired him, even if they didn’t necessarily share his ideals. His idea was that winning a confrontation doesn’t necessarily imply canceling out the other’s point of view.

Speak plain language and be transparent

Great leaders are often characterized by the simplicity of their speeches. They don’t speak to be admired, they speak to be understood. Without a doubt, the best way to promote understanding is to use simple language that anyone can understand.

This would be populism if there were hidden interests behind it. However, when simple words don’t hide hidden truths, they reach people’s hearts. Indeed, an authentic and genuine speech has great powers of conviction. It also carries respect. A verbal discussion is won like this: with deep arguments, verbalized simply and without lies.

Grow in self-reliance and persevere

Gandhi insisted on getting his own salt. He also made his own clothing and other everyday objects. As a matter of fact, he turned self-reliance into a way to build freedom. He knew that the bonds of dependency aren’t born from the big facts, but the small details. He attacked evil at its roots.

It took this great leader 55 years to complete the independence of India. This had always been his dream. Furthermore, he did it his way: without resorting to violence. Nevertheless, he went through a great deal of difficulty before achieving it. Indeed, he encountered problems of all kinds, he even had conflicts with himself. However, deep down, he knew that perseverance was the key that opened any door and that the ability to persist allows one to advance towards success.


All of Gandhi’s teachings have left us with a precious catalog of human values. His triumph was a triumph of the spirit and that’s why it marked a before and after. The greatest of all his precepts was to confront, without the aim of destroying the other. In this way, there’s never defeat because everybody wins, in a way, even if they don’t get everything they want.

Main image courtesy of Whooli Chen

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.