How to Argue & Win Every Time is a book on making winning arguments.
It’s not so much an “how to book” though, and you need to tease out the golden nuggets.
- Prepare in advance
- Allow others to reject and disagree
- Take control of the interaction
Gerry Spence is a trial lawyer indicted in the Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame. His own website not-so-humble reads “the greatest trial lawyer in history.
1. Ask For What You Want
People don’t want to say no, not to our face, and not when we ask what’s just and reasonable.
The first trick of winning an argument is the trick of abandoning trickery
2. Pick Your Battles: You Can’t Win Them All
Pick your battles because you can’t convince everyone and neither should you try.
Gerry Spence says that you will likely not “win an argument” against a creationist who really believes that God literally created earth on the 7th day.
And that’s OK, you shouldn’t try to convince him otherwise.
3. Use Simple And Emotional Words
Use simple words that create emotions.
Any word that doesn’t create emotion or visional content must be discarded. The author even says that “words that appeal to the sterile intellect should be abandoned”.
4. Don’t Argue With Children, Love Them For Who They Are
The author says that to better argue with children he only has one advice: loving them better.
We must trust our children and let them free. We can’t argue with them as if they were our captives. We must love them and face our fear of them being free.
5. Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and see the argument from their point of view.
To win the argument, you must see the argument from their point of view.
When you ask for a raise, you must keep in mind that a corporation wants to see return on its investments.
And you will always lose if you ask for a raise without having the corporation’s profits in mind.
6. Avoid Sarcasm: Don’t Make Others Feel Inferior
Scorn, ridicule, and sarcasm are a no-no. But also use humor cautiously, since it can be misunderstood.
Humor is powerful when it reveals the truth. But the big risk is that of trying to be funny and failing.
When in doubt, if there is a chance that the other party might be offended, avoid it.
And remember: always give basic human respect to everyone.
7. Focus on Informing Instead of Winning
If you are en expert in a subject and your “opponent” doesn’t know squat, your aim shouldn’t be that of “winning” or crushing them, but to inform them.
8. Take The Initiative
The winners take full control of the action instead. They don’t defend when they can attack, and after they attacked they attack again.
The exception is for those we love.
In those cases, attack with love, or decide to lose.
9. Speak Of Your Weaknesses First, And You Rob Your Opponent of An Easy Win
You can tell your weaknesses much better than your opponent will.
So take charge of them and admit them at the very beginning. Admitting your weaknesses not only will increase your credibility, but it will also leave your opponent with little to say.
10. The 7 Basics of Winning Arguments
The basics are:
- Prepare well
- Envision your argument
- Listen to the other
- Find common ground
- Be credible
- Tell stories
- Tell the truth
11. Lean The Laws of Arguing
And these are the laws of arguing according to Gerry Spence:
- 1. Everyone is capable of making the winning argument.
- Winning is getting what we want, which also means helping “others” get what they want.
- Learn that words are a weapon, and can be used hostilely in combat.
- Know that there is always a “biological advantage” of delivering the TRUTH.
- Assault is not argument.
- Use fear as an ally in public speaking or in argument. Learn to convert its energy.
- Let emotions show and don’t discourage passion.
- Don’t be blinded by brilliance.
- Learn to speak with the body. The body sometimes speaks more powerfully than words.
- Know that the enemy is not the person with whom we are engaged in a failing argument, but the vision within ourselves.
Real Life Applications
- Allow Others to Disagree
For me, this was the biggest takeaway and something that took me a while to realize.
The best way to avoid arguments that go nowhere and to end up in combative intimate relationships is to allow our partners to disagree and reject our arguments.
- Terrible Audiobook
The audiobook feels like one of those old, stodgy, grey old-school audiocassette recording.
- Some Generalizations
The author says that “if you step into a kitchen where an argument is raging, all the noise is evidence of a desperate need of being heard”.
But that still sounds like a generalization. He even mentions Van Gogh who cut his ear because nobody heard. But Van Gogh likely also had psychological issues, some say borderline personality disorder.
- Few examples
“How to Argue and Win Every Time” doesn’t have many examples.
It’s more discursive than based on techniques and case studies.
I respect that Gerry Spence, the author, proudly represent “the little people”.
On his website, he says:
He fights against oppression and injustice in courts across US.
In a way, I think of him as a kindred soul for what I’m making here at The Power Moves.
But talking about the book, well, “How to Argue & Win Every Time” didn’t touch me in a significant way.
It’s diluted content and there are little practical examples to make it a real “how-to book” which you can use in your life.