"David," I told an old colleague a few weeks back, "I won an argument that I should have lost."
Even in the most meritocratic of environments, ideas win not based on their merit but based on the quality of arguments used to advance those ideas. And sometimes ideas win based on the caliber of the arguer.
That experience scares me. It isn't enough for me to win an argument. My job is ultimately to reach the best outcome, even if my arguments need to lose for that to happen. Fighting for the best outcome means that I need to encourage arguments that I might disagree with.
I saw a similar situation at work recently. Two people were arguing over project priorities. The person who backed down first lost the argument even though, in my opinion, that person had the better argument. Backing down had little to do with conceding the superiority of the opponent's point. One arguer was simply more skilled at debating than the other. The other, meanwhile, didn't derive any joy from continuing to fight.
I wish there were some system or trick for arguments to win on their merits. But, since there isn't, it falls on the arguers to know their strengths and weaknesses and to adjust to them. Strong arguers need to be careful that their confidence and argumentative skill don't lead to their winning arguments that they should lose. Weak arguers, meanwhile, need to get better lest they never contribute to their full potential.