October 30, 2011

Thank You for Arguing by Jay Heinrichs

Thank You for Arguing by Jay Heinrichs
What Aristotle, Lincoln and Homer Simpson can teach us about the art of persuasion.

Tools for rhetoric arguments

Set your goal and the argument's tense
Think of whether you want to emphasize character, logic or emotion
Make sure the time and the medium are ripe for persuasion.

When you draft a speech or presentation, keep Cicero's outline handy



Personal Goal: what you want from the audience
Audience goals:
Mood: This is the easiest thing to change
Mind: A step up in difficulty from changing the mood
Willingness to act: Hardest of all, because it requires an emotional commitment and identification with the action

Issue Control: Mastering argument's chief topics

Blame: Covers the past. Aristotle called this kind of argument forensic - its chief topics are guilt and innocence

Values: Get argued in the present tense. This is demonstrative or tribal rhetoric. Chief topics: praise and blame

Choice: Deals with he future. This is deliberative argument, the rhetoric of politics. Its chief topic is the advantageous - what's best for the audience.

This is argument by character. Its three chief aspects are virtue, practical wisdom and disinterest.

Decorum: You ability to fit in with the audience's expectations of a trustworthy leader.
Code grooming: Using language unique to the audience.
Identity strategy: Getting an audience to identify with an action - to see the choice as one that helps define them as a group
Irony: Saying one thing to outsiders with a meaning revealed only to your group.

Virtue: The appearance of living up to your audience's values.

Bragging: The straightforward and least effective, way to enhance your virtue.
Witness bragging: An endorsement by a third party, the more disinterested the better
Tactical flaw: A defect or mistake, intentionally revealed, taht shows your rhetorical virtue
Switching sides: Appearing to have supported the powers that be all along.
Eddie Haskell Ploy: Throwing your support behind the inevitable to show off your virtue.
Logic-Free Values: Focusing on the individual values-words and commonplaces to bring a group together and get it to identify with you.

Practical wisdom: Phronesis is the name Aristotle gave this rhetorical street savvy.

Showing off experience
Bending the rules
Appearing to take the middle course

Disinterest: Aristotle called this eunoia - an apparent willingness to sacrifice your own interests for the greater good

Reluctant conclusion: Appearing to have reached your conclusion only because of its overwhelming rightness
Personal Sacrifice: Claiming that the choice will help your audience more than it will help you
Dubitatio: Seeming doubtful of your own rhetorical skill

Liar detector: techniques for judging a person's credibility

Needs test: Do the persuader's needs match your needs?
Comparable experience: Has the persuader actually done what he's talking about
Dodged Question: Ask who benefits from the choice. If you don't get a straight answer, don't trust that person's disinterest
"That depends" filter: Instead of a one-size-fits-all choice, the persuader offers a solution tailored to you
Sussing Ability: The persuader cuts to the chase of an issue.
Extremes: How does the persuader describe the opposing argument? How does is his middle-of-the-road to yours?
Extremist detector: An extremist will describe a moderate choice as extreme
Virtue Yardstick: Does the persuader find the sweet spot between the extremes of your values?
Code inoculation: Be aware of the terms that define the groups you belong to and watch out when a persuader uses them.


Argument by emotion is the seductive part of persuasion. Pathos can cause a mood change, make an audience more receptive to your logic and give them an emotional commitment to your goal.

Sympathy: Registering concern for your audience's emotions.
Oversympathazing: Exaggerated sympathy can make your audience feel ashamed of an emotion you want to change

Belief: Aristotle said this is the key to emotion
Experience: Refer to the audience's own experience or plant one in their heads; this is the past tense of belief.
Expectation: Make an argument expect something good or bad and the appropriate emotion will follow

Volume control: Underplaying an emotion or gradually increasing it so that audience can feel it along with you
Simple speech: Don't use fancy language when you get emotional.
Unannounced emotion: Avoid tipping off your audience in advance of a mood. They'll resist it.

Passive voice: If you want to direct an audience's anger away from someone, imply that the action happened on its own. (e.g. the chair got broken, not Pablo broke the chair)

Backfire: You can claim an individual's emotion in advance by overplaying it yourself. This works especially well when you screw up and want to present the wrath of an authority.

Persuasive emotions:
Anger: One of the most effective ways to rouse an audience to action. But it's a short lived emotion
Patriotism: Attaches a choice or action to the audience sense of group identity
Emulation: Emotional response to a role model. The greater your ethos, the more the audience will imitate you
Humor: A good calming device that can enhance your ethos

Figure of speech: you will find individual figures in the glossary
Cliché twisting: using overworked language to your advantage
Literal interpretation: reducing a cliché to absurdity by seeming to take at its face value
Surprise ending: starting a cliché's as it's normally said, but ending it differently
Reworking: switching words around in a cliché

Word swap: Changing normal usage and grammar for effect
chiasmus: creates a crisscross sentence

Weighing both sides: Comparing or contrasting opinions in order to define the issue
either /or figure (dialysis): weight each side equally
contrasting figure(antithesis): favors one side over another
Meaning-change Figure (antistasis): Repeats a word in a way that uses or defines it differently

Editing Out Loud: Interrupting yourself or your opponent to correct something.

Self-Correction Figure: Lets you amplify an argument while seeming to be fair and accurate.

Redefiner: repeats the opponent's language and corrects in

Volume control: Amplifying or calming speech through figures
Litotes: Ironic understatement. Makes you seem cooler than your opponent
Climax: Uses overlapping words in successive phrases in a rhetorical crescendo

Word invention: Figures help you create a new words or meanings from old words; they make you look clever.
verbing: Turns noun into a verb or vice versa
Like figure: Strips a word of meaning and uses it as a pause or for emphasis


Argument by logic. People like to think that all argument should be nothing but logic. As per Aristotle, when it comes to persuasion, rational speech needs emotion and character as well

Deduction: Applying a general principle to a particular matter.

Enthymeme: A logic sandwich that contains deduction

e.g. we should [choice], because [commonplace]

Proof spotter: A proof of consists of example or a premise
A premise usually begins with 'because' or implies it

Commonplace: Any cliché, belief, or value that can serve as your audience's boiled-down public opinion. It is the starting point of your argument

Babbling: A n audience's repetition of a word or idea; it often reveals a commonplace

Rejection: Another good commonplace spotter. An audience will often use a commonplace when it rejects your argument

Commonplace label: Applying a commonplace to an idea, a proposal or a piece of legislation as part of a definition strategy

Induction: Argument by example. It starts kinds of examples to use in inductive logic

fact, comparison story: The three kinds of examples to use in inductive logic

Concession: Using your opponent's own argument to your advantage

Framing: Shaping the bounds of an argument. This is a modern persuasive term; you won't find it in the classic rhetoric

Framing strategy:
1. Find the audience's commonplace
2. Define the issue broadly, appealing to the values of the widest audience
3. Deal with the specific problem or choice, using the future tense

Definition strategy: Controlling the language used in an argument

Term change: inserting your own language in place of your opponent's

Redefinition: Accepting your opponent's terms while changing their connotation
Definition Jujitsu: Using your opponent's language to attack him
Definition Judo: Using terms that contrast with your opponent's, creating a context that makes him look bad

Logical Fallacies: It is important to detect them, just as you should spot any kind of persuasive tactic used against you. Another reason to understand fallacious logic you may want to use it yourself.

Bad proof: The argument's commonplace or principle is unacceptable, or the examples are bad

False comparison: natural ingredients are good for you, so anything called 'natural' is healthful. Also called the fallacy of association.
Appeal to popularity: Other kids get to do it, so why don't I?
Hasty generalization: Uses tow few examples and interprets them too broadly.
Misinterpreting the evidence: takes the exception and claims it proves the rule.
Unit fallacy: Does weird math with apples and oranges, often confusing the part for the whole.

Fallacy of ignorance: claims that if something has not been proven, it must be true.

Bad conclusion: We're given too many choices or not enough or the conclusion is irrelevant to the argument.

Many questions: squashes two or more issues into a single one.
False dilemma: Offers the audience two choices when more actually exist.
Fallacy of antecedent: assumes that this moment is identical to past, similar moments.
Red herring: introduces an irrelevant issue to distract or confuse the audience.
Straw man: sets up a different issue that's easier to argue.

Disconnect between proof and conclusion: The proof stands up al right, but it fails to leas to the conclusion

Tautology: A logical redundancy; the proof and the conclusion are the same thing.
Reduction ad absurdum: Takes the opponent's choice and reduces to an absurdity.
Slippery slope: Predicts a series of dire events stemming from one choice.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc: Assumes that if one thing follows another, the first thing caused the second one. I call this the chanticleer fallacy.

Rhetorical fouls: Mistakes or intentional offenses that stop an argument dead or make it fails to reach a consensus

Switching tenses away from the future: It's fine to use the past or present, but deliberate argument depends on eventually discussing the future.

Inflexible insistence on the rules: using the voice of God, sticking to your guns, refusing to hear the other side.

Humiliation: An argument that sets out only to debase someone, not to make a choice

Innuendo: A form of irony used to debase someone. It often plants an idea in the audience's head by denying it

Threatening: rhetoricians call this argumentum ad baculum - argument by the stick. It denies the audience choice.

Nasty language or signs
utter stupidity


The Romans called it occasio, the art of seizing the occasion. Kairos depends on timing and the medium

Persuadable moment: When the audience is ripest for your argument.

Moment spotter: Uncertain moods and beliefs - when minds are already beginning to change - signal a persuadable moment

Perfect Audience: Receptive, attentive and well disposed towards you.

Audience change: If the current audience isn't ready for persuasion, seek another one. This is what market research is all about

Senses: The five senses are key to the proper medium
Sight is mostly pathos and ethos
Sound is the most logical sense
Smell, taste and touch are almost purely emotional

Invention: The crafting part of a speech. Its tools are the tools of logos

Arrangement: The organization of a speech


Style: Choice of words that make a speech attractive to the listener. The five virtues of style
Proper language

Memory: The ability to speak without notes
Delivery: Should be loud enough for the room

voice: should be loud enough for the room

Gesture: The eyes are key, even in a larger room, because they your other facial muscles. use few hand gestures in a formal speech.

1. Answer someone who expresses doubt over your idea with "OK let's tweak it" Now focus the argument on revising your idea as if the group had already accepted it. This move is a form of concession - rhetorical jujitsu that uses your opponent's moves to your advantage.

2. Romans were using the 'but wait, there is more' pitch. It is a form of amplification 'not only xxxx but also yyyyy

3. If your idea has been used anywhere, describe its success. then feel free to use your favorite cliché 'it's a slam dunk

4. If you are appalled at the notion of manipulating your loved ones, try using pure logic. Seduction is a great pacifier. You can use seduction - the nonsexual kind - in a presentation. Will your plan increase efficiency? Get your audience to lust after it; paint a vision of actually taking lunch hours and seeing their families more.

5. You are put on hold - Pretend you have all the time in the world and present your choice as the lesser of two evils. They either cut you a break or waste more time with you Functionaries like water, follow the path of least resistance

6. Present a decision with a chiasmus of your first choice: 'either we control our expense or let expenses control us' ' you can take a boy out of country, but you cannot take country out of boy' ' ask not what your country can do for you ….'

7. Ability to tell a story and make yourself desirable. Later on you will see how storytelling is critical to emotional persuasion
8. If you actually get someone to agree with you, test her commitment to your point. Ask, 'now what do you think you will say if someone brings up this issue'

9. Sample of jujitsu. With friends like that who needs enemies? Reforms like that, who wants crooks? When your coworker say, it won't work, you say, 'hum maybe not' then use that point to change her mood or her mind. One way to agree with a person is to agree with that person.

10. List most expensive option first and your preference in the middle followed by cheap option at the end

11. How to handle back-stabbing - ask few questions like 'how is blaming me going to help us get the next contract?' whether you think I' m a jerk or not, let us figure out a way for you and me to get along

12. Talk about future. we heard many stories about their past success, (or failures), but let us talk about the future - what do you want done?

16 try this when arguing turns to fighting? What should we do about we keep it from happening again?

17 A good persuader anticipates the audience's objections. Ideally you want to produce them even before the audience can think to. That technique makes your listeners more malleable. They begin to assume you will take care of all heir qualms and they lapse into a bovine state of persuadability.

18. if the argument bogs down in the past or present tense switch to the future: 'you are bringing some good points, but how are we going to …?" Make sure the question defines the issue in a way that is favorable to your side.

19. Before talking to a group, ask of the group member about group's commonplace, what considered as stupid, dress code, etc

20. Dress like your boss & his/her peers
21 if you have to address more than one audience (tech and bz.); create 2 outlines - one for the content and the other for the occasions

22. Edit your resume by ethos instead of chronology. Think of the company you would most want to work for and list the values you share (virtue) your relevant knowledge and experience (practical wisdom) and how your ambitions match the company's goals (disinterest). Now redo it chronologically. It should be ethically persuasive now.

23. Interrupting yourself (hey, pal..) to address a different audience (even a virtual one) keeps your original audience on its toes.
24. Attaching values to audience sounds like relativism.
25 Overwhelm your audience with examples of your erudition
26 Get others brag for you
27 make an inevitable decision against you look like a willing to sacrifice on your part
28 To get a favor from someone - Start conversation by praising her practical wisdom' I heard a lot about you that you treat everyone individually not as some dough in a cookie cutter"
29 . Give three options - payoffs, do-ability and superiority
30. Act as though you felt compelled to reach a conclusion, despite your own desires
31 if you want to stir up the masses, don't just promote your cause or attack its opponents; portray the enemy as belittling your cause

"Excellent performance is our standard, standard performance is sub-standard. Sub-standard performance is not in our catalog"

Figures comes in three varieties - figure of speech, figure of thought and tropes. Figure of speech change ordinary language through repetition, substitution, sound and wordplay. They mess around with words - skipping them, swapping them, and making them sound different
(Using And in the beginning gives continuity and flow to oral speech)
Figure of thought use argument mini-tactics and are logical or emotional tactics from conceding a point to revealing an attractive flow (e.g. what makes a king out of a slave ? courage - (give q and then answer as well)
Tropes make a word stand for something different from its usual meaning - swap one image or concept for another. Metaphor is a trope and Irony is a trope as well.

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