When most of us think of argument, we think about winners of arguments and losers of arguments. Arguments, even sometimes academic arguments, can be strong and forceful. An Aristotelian or classical argument is a strong, “this is my assertion and here’s why I am right” kind of argument. But that kind of argument isn’t going to work in all situations. When your audience is a really difficult one in the sense that you know your audience isn’t going to completely agree with your side of the issue, it can be a good idea to try to find a middle ground. The Rogerian argument finds that middle ground.
Based on the work of psychologist Carl Rogers(pictured on the right), a Rogerian argument focuses on finding a middle ground between the author and the audience. This type of argument can be extremely persuasive and can help you, as a writer, understand your own biases and how you might work to find common ground with others.
Here is a summary of the basic strategy for a Rogerian argument, and the infographic on the following page should be helpful as well.
- In your essay, first, introduce the problem.
- Acknowledge the other side before you present your side of the issue. This may take several paragraphs.
- Next, you should carefully present your side of the issue in a way that does not dismiss the other side. This may also take several paragraphs.
- You should then work to bring the two sides together. Help your audience see the benefits of the middle ground. Make your proposal for the middle ground here, and be sure to use an even, respectful tone. This should be a key focus of your essay and may take several paragraphs.
- Finally, in your conclusion, remind your audience of the balanced perspective you have presented and make it clear how both sides benefit when they meet in the middle.
For a visual representation of this type of argument, check out the Rogerian infographic on the next page.
This Letter Is an Example:
My name is Mrs. Maples and I am the lead Special Education teacher at George Washington Elementary School. I attended your last round-table discussion and have been thinking about the difficulties you are having with securing volunteers for the upcoming book sale. I may have a solution that will help us both.
From the explanation Mrs. Reed gave at the meeting, the primary problem is finding a consistent group of volunteers — you train five or six new helpers every month and lose 10, which could mean cutting future events. I know our students love the book sale and winter carnival. The staff does, too. We would all hate to lose these annual joys.
I may have a source of steady volunteers that can help with this problem.
My fifth grade Special Education teacher, Ms. Evans, has informed me that her class is available to serve as student helpers at the next book sale. These children are passionate learners and eager assistants. They are currently volunteering in the library and cafeteria — so they are no stranger to a bit of hard work!
I understand that working with special needs students may seem like a challenge, and it is, but the rewards for both you and the students would be great. With nearly 25 students, the class would more than satisfy your volunteer quotas and Ms. Evans and myself will also attend to delegate duties and assist with supervision. But most importantly, the students would be learning a valuable lesson about the operation of this enormous event. They would all have a deeper appreciation for the books sale, understanding all of the work that goes into making these little miracles happen at George Washington.
I will be available from 9 am-6 pm, Monday through Thursday, if you would like to discuss the potential for a partnership between the fifth graders and the PTA. I hope that we can establish a bond that will last for many years to come.
Mrs. Evelyn Maples