The Study Dude – Thank You for Arguing

How to Persuade through Debate and Argumentation

There is nothing more that The Study Dude wants for you than to learn debate and argumentation to augment your opportunities and socio-economic power.

Well, in these articles, as The Study Dude, I’ll try to give you the study tips you need to help make your learning easier. I’ll also give you straight and honest opinions and personal anecdotes?even the embarrassing ones that you wouldn’t ever dare read about from any other study tip guru.

This week’s article examines the titillating book Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion by Jay Heinrichs.

Find the Right Tense for Your Argument
At a pivotal time in our lives, we sometimes need to defend ourselves or advance a viewpoint. We sometimes need to convince others to take some sort of action, or we might need to convince someone of the moral fibre of some person or action. All is good and well, but how do you make these pivotal times compelling enough to win the court hearing or win over an audience? That is the substance of Jay Heinrichs’s book.

In my undergraduate program, I spent entire classes learning about pathos, ethos, and logos–all touched upon in Heinrich’s book–but rarely did we learn a compelling, practical application. One student, near the end of the semester, bitterly complained about the mass of theoretical information void of any practical application. She had embarked on a journey to acquire a law degree, a lofty goal by any standard, and the one course with intent to make students savvy debaters failed for her on any practical level. I identified with her plight, and puzzled over the difference between logic and the persuasive logos. Nothing practical, nothing gained.

Yet, Heinrichs’s book splashes persuasion and debate strategies on almost every single page.

Here lies one of the foundation of Heinrichs’s book: past, present, and future tense:

– The three tenses include blame (past tense), values (present tense), and choice (future tense). All of the arguments that we endure have one of these three tenses as the focal point.
– Blame (past tense) works best in courtroom type scenarios.
– Values (present tense) functions optimally when you want someone to see the morality of some issue. It needn’t necessarily focus on morality, but should isolate the good from the bad.
– If an argument gets out of hand, try switching tenses.
– Choice (future tense) is the optimal tense.
– The past tense (blame) refers to forensic rhetoric. The present tense (values) refers to demonstrative rhetoric. The future tense (choice) refers to deliberative rhetoric.
– If you are in the future tense, implementing demonstrative rhetoric, try this strategy: bring up an extreme choice and then subdue it with the choice you most want advanced. Probability suggests people will more likely accept your conclusion if it follows an extreme choice.

Brag and Boast Away for Credibility
Yesterday, my father steered us toward a side road, a block away from the destination I had intended for him to drop me off at. Dismayed at the forthcoming walk, I decided to implement one of the strategies in Heinrichs’s book. Weakly, I muttered, “You are going to drop me off in front of the store because you love me, aren’t you, Dad?” After uttering those words, I drooped in my seat, confounded by the amateurishness of that persuasion technique. Yet, suddenly, the car veered into the correct lane, and my dad, without saying a word, drove me to the door of the destination.

Manipulation? Possibly. But we both won. Later, I spoke with him, showering him with love for his compassionate deed, and he delighted in doing something little with a positive implication.

So, if an amateurish strategy can change the course of an outcome, what can implementing more of Jay Heinrichs’s strategies do?

One of his strategies is to brag and boast away. Yes, everyone hates a braggart, but in persuasion, sometimes it gets you your way. I list Heinrich’s strategies for bragging as follows:

– Boast away on your strengths and positive actions. Better yet, find someone to brag on your behalf.
– Let the audience know about a positive flaw you have, like your inability to say no to homeless people crashing on your couch nightly. Or else talk to office audience about your decision to bypass mourning your grandmother’s death so that you could attend the company event you were slated to host. It’s a guaranteed boss pleaser.
– Warning: bragging sometimes backfires, so use it strategically.
– Parents of a child can praise one another’s stance with respect to the child’s request to borrow the car. Parents praising each other’s rules and decisions subjects the child to the adult’s unified, unbreakable bond.
– Let the audience know about some failing or weakness you have that invokes sympathy or demonstrates sacrifice.
– Hide your error in a virtue. “I slipped away early from work last night because I wanted to surprise the boss with a home-baked pie for his recent call in the market.”
– If some outcome is inevitable, although not your preference, make it seem like you willingly concede to it: “I say Tom should get the corner office instead of me, sure, because I’ve yet to bypass my last year stellar record of 100 new clients,” when you know that Tom already received word of his relocation.

Come Across as Caring and Selfless
I once worked alongside a public relations specialist. She often referred to me as a soft sell, which, in other words, means someone who tries to sell something in very gentle manner. A soft sell can make more inroads than an aggressive sell in many instances.
Coming across as caring and selfless is a powerful strategy in debate and argumentation. Caring for others? well-being serves as something we should aim to “appear” to do. In biblical terms, caring for others? well-being stands as an outright duty and moral obligation, but debate is somewhat different from morality, unfortunately. Debate and argumentation should optimally elicit favourable response for some common good?something good that you want to personally achieve. However, that doesn’t preclude negative people from using persuasion for immoral purposes. The aim remains to try to manipulate for the overall good.

With that said, Heinrichs’s advice on how to come across as caring and selfless follow:

– Try to come across as objective by feigning reluctance over something you wholeheartedly want to see occur: “I’m not sure I quite deserve the corner office, although last year’s sales were off the chart, I admit.”
– Feign that you once agreed with opponent’s position: “I once thought Redford deserved to take her daughter on flights until I saw the accumulative bill for the Albertan economy.”
– Pretend that some sacrifice causes you great woe, when, truly, the outcome delights you: “Going to the gym daily concerns me with all the hard effort and dedication I’ll have to exert, but if you are willing to help me fund my membership, I suppose I could accept.”
– When you speak in public, if it scares you, start off clumsy and awkward, soft in tone, eyes down, and then slowly raise your voice and gradually maintain better eye contact.

So, there’s nothing to fear. The Study Dude is determined to make right for you all the wrongs I made in grad school?one A+ at a time.

Heinrichs, Jay. (2013) Thank You for Arguing. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.

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