Spence: The Power Argument

We are now at the last section of Gerry Spence’s “how to” section of “How to Argue and Win Every time”. And this last section is about my favorite topic: power.

Gerry understands power in a way that few others do.  This is because he has felt powerless and gained power in himself. he felt the transition. He knows what he 9is talking about.

So where does power come from? Power is the produce of permission. When I feel someone is powerful, I am giving them the permission to be so. When I feel power in myself, I am giving myself that same permission. Gerry’s basic point is to never giver permission to others to take your power away. Insist on holding onto your power: be the center of your universe. That is the power stance.  Note that this is not “trying”. Losers try. Winners do.

This is not about becoming arrogant. Quite the opposite. One seeks and finds truth in oneself. That truth is humbling and powerful.

In some situations, argument is war (as in a court case). In these settings, one must win the war first by seeing what is really going on. And one wins by exerting control. Not over the opponent but over the war itself. That control is achieved by attacking. When does one attack. One defends when one’s strength is inadequate. One attacks when it is abundant.

Of course, you do not attack your loved ones and friends and employers. These situations require special treatment (which Gerry will give). We also do not attack the “man wearing the white hat”. We attack when it is revealed that he is the opposite. And even then, it is not an attack against the person but against the story. And the attack must be fair.

And when we are wearing the black hat? When we have wronged? The “bare facts” may appear damning. But we need to go beyond the bare facts to understand the larger story. And we should do the same with the bare facts that show another is wearing the black hat. This applies also when the Other has lied.

Gerry lays out ten elements for making the power argument

  1. Prepare until we have become the argument
  2. Open the Other to receive your argument
  3. Give the argument in the form of a story
  4. Tell the truth
  5. Tell the Other what you want
  6. Avoid sarcasm, scorn and ridicule
  7. Logic is power
  8. Action and winning are brothers
  9. Admit at the outset the weak points of your argument
  10. Understand your power

Gerry uses a very good example – an argument on behalf of a boy expelled from school and then a variation, on behalf of the teacher who over-reacted to the boy’s provocation. These are too long to reproduce or summarize here. But the point is clear — to make the power argument when his client is “wearing the black hat”, Gerry has to crawl into the hide of the Other and share the white hat.

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