“If you’re on your own, or if you’re only talking with people who agree with you, then it is likely that you will have arguments piling up for your side,” says cognitive scientist Hugo Mercier, “ and that might lead to overconfidence and to polarisation.” With professor Dan Sperber, Mercier wrote The Enigma of Reason. They argue that apparent weaknesses in human reasoning become strengths when we’re arguing against others. We are better at assessing other people’s arguments than our own.
“If you’re in a good faith discussion with people from the other side of the political spectrum,” says Mercier, “they will shoot down your poor arguments, they will give you arguments for the other side, and things should end up working OK.” Argument, according to Mercier and Sperber, is the natural home of human reason.
Alone, we easily fall into lazy thinking and gather arguments to reinforce our assumptions. Only by setting yourself the challenge of convincing others, of finding the weaknesses in their arguments, and letting them seek out the faults in your arguments, can you test out ideas.
That’s why I’m arguing that you owe it to yourself, the people you work with, and society at large, to get into a good argument at least once a day. And by ‘good’, I mean both rigorous and respectful. As Gallo says, “Disagreement does not have to be unkind. It does not have to be mean. You can do it with empathy, compassion and kindness.”
To comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Capital, please head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.
If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter called "If You Only Read 6 Things This Week". A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Capital and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.