Spence: When to Argue

This is the second post on Gerry Spence’s highly valuable book “How to Argue and Win Every Time”. The first post was about the value of argument. Now we focus on when to argue.

The key issue is about the word “winning”. The lock is that we want to win. We feel the need to win!  Why is this a lock? Because of what winning means on an intuitive level. The key to getting beyond that is to re-think what winning is all about.

Winning is not about destroying the other side. We often argue this way and as a result, our words hurt the other side. And when we cause pain, we get pain back as retribution.  Winning becomes a matter of attrition.  Gerry writes

Argument is not the process by which we seek to destroy the OTHER. Argument is a tool with which we can achieve and end, satisfy a want, fulfill a desire. Argument is the mechanism by which we reveal the truth – the truth for us. It is the incomparable art by which we connect and interact successfully with the OTHER:

Winning is getting what we want, which often includes assisting others in getting what they want.

Wise words. And words that we might repeat to ourselves each morning. So why don’t we do this automatically? Gerry identifies a few common causes

  • I am overwhelmed by the need to confirm who I am. I don’t argue, I just disagree and am disagreeable
  • I like to hear my own voice – Well some people are filled with self-admiration.  They say quite a lot but few remember
  • I have a neurosis – disdain for authority, panic, paranoia. don’t win arguments

The great dissenters are remembered as folks who refused to go with the crowd. But they argued over principle rather than from a personal need to do so.  Indeed, when it comes to principle, one often can win without arguing at all. One can take the side of the OTHER and help him or her see it. Not arguing can be the most effective way of winning.

Next we take a close look at power – the gun that shoots both ways. Stay tuned and enjoy!


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