How to Argue and Win Every Time



by Gerry Spence

Summary by Luke Setzer
(Note: This summary is a verbatim excerpt from the book.)

THE LOCK: I need something more concrete. Give me rules. Give me a formula. This is who I am--a formula person.

THE KEY: All right. Here are the ten elements that make up the great power argument.

  1. Prepare. Prepare until we have become the argumentPrepare until you know every scale on the hide of the fish.  Having prepared, next understand that good preparation is like writing a script for a screenplay.  Proper preparation requires one to tell the story and to assign roles to the parties.  Cast your side as the good guys, as the side chat is unjustly accused, wrongly despised, gravely misunderstood.  Cast your side as the underdog.  And, when those for whom we argue cannot wear the white hat, argue their case from inside their hides.
  2. Open the Other to receive your argument. You have already learned how: empower the other to receive or reject your argument.
  3. Give the argument in the form of story.  As we have seen, we are genetic storytellers and listeners to stories.  Remember, fables, allegories, and parables are the traditional tools of successful argument.  Every movie, every soap, every sitcom, most lyrics in popular songs, all operas and plays, most successful television commercials are in story form.  So do not forget what you have learned already: jurors, the boss, the family, the Other are conditioned to listen to stories.
  4. Tell the truth.  With ordinary words you have learned the incredible power of credibility.  Being who you are is powerful.  Saying how you feel is powerful.  To be open and real and afraid, if you are afraid, is powerful.  The power argument begins and ends by telling the truth.  Truth is power.
  5. Tell the Other what you want.  If you are arguing before a jury for money, ask for money.  If you leave the Other to guess what you want, their guessing may be wrong, and guessing spoils your credibility.  Remember the power of justice.  Jurors will circumvent the law to mete out justice.  People will break the law to obtain justice.  People will die in wars to win it.  People can live without food or shelter or love.  This is a species that can bear every kind and character of pain except one pain--the pain of injustice.  Discover the natural justice of your argument and ask for it--demand it.
  6. Avoid sarcasm, scorn, and ridicule.  Use humor cautiously.  Hold back insult.  No one admires the cynic, the scoffer, the mocker, the small, and the petty.  Giving respect to one’s opponent elevates us.  Those who insult and slight do so from low places.  Remember: Respect is reciprocal.  The employment of humor can be the most devastating of all weapons in an argument.  Humor is omnipotent when it reveals the truth.  But beware: attempting to be funny and failing is one of the most dangerous of all strategies.
  7. Logic is power. If logic is on your side, ride it--ride it all the way.  If logic is not on your side, if logic leads to an unjust result, it will have no power.  As Samuel Butler said, "Logic is like the sword--those who appeal to it shall perish by it."  Logic does not always lead to truth or justice.  Logic defeats spontaneity.  Logic is often dull and is more comfortable with the dead, for it is often without spirit.  Do not give up creativity for logic.  However, the creative mind will soon see that creativity is often served by logic.
  8. Action and winning are brothersThe worst of head-on attacks is often better than the most sophisticated defense.  Never permit your opponent to take control.  Do not defend when you can attack.  Counterpunching is for boxers, and counterpunchers most often lose.  The great champions of the world take control.  The great generals attack first, and attack again.  Take the initiative.  Do something.  But with those we love, the best attack is often to attack with love, and, as we shall see, winning is often accomplished by the art of losing.
  9. Admit at the outset the weak points in your argument.  You can expose your weaknesses in a better light than your opponent, who will expose them in the darkest possible way.  An honest admission, having come from you, not only endows you with credibility, it also leaves your opponent with nothing to say except what you have already admitted.
  10. Understand your power. Give yourself permission--only to winBut remember, arrogance, insolence, and stupidity are close relatives.

Take the winning stance. Turn on the Magical ArgumentOpen up and let the magic out.  Trust it. Take the risk.  Jump.


Objectivism 101
Objectivism 101