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Thank You for Arguing

What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion

By Jay Heinrichs
13-minute read
Audio available
Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion by Jay Heinrichs

Thank You for Arguing (2013) is a guide to the art of rhetoric. These blinks explain what rhetoric really is, how persuasion works and how to win a debate by drawing on in-depth research, anecdotes and theories from the great orators of history.

  • Anyone interested in making good arguments
  • Politicians or anyone who debates politics
  • Parents looking for techniques with which to persuade their children

Jay Heinrich is a former editor and publishing executive who dropped his first career in order to make rhetoric his full-time job. He blogs about rhetorical techniques and holds workshops aimed at popularizing argumentation.

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Thank You for Arguing

What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion

By Jay Heinrichs
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion by Jay Heinrichs
Synopsis

Thank You for Arguing (2013) is a guide to the art of rhetoric. These blinks explain what rhetoric really is, how persuasion works and how to win a debate by drawing on in-depth research, anecdotes and theories from the great orators of history.

Key idea 1 of 8

Arguments are essential to human life, influencing our attitudes and driving our decisions.

For many, the word “argument” conjures images of two people engaged in an angry screaming match. But rhetoric – the art of argumentation – is much more than that. In essence, it’s a nexus of skills and techniques that help the arguer persuade others, and its origins can be traced all the way back to ancient Greece.

But what bearing does it have on contemporary society?

Well, even today, rhetoric shapes the way we think, without our even noticing it. The ancient Greeks held the discipline of rhetoric in such high esteem that it was the foundation of all education. They practiced this skill by making arguments. And arguments continue to play a key role in all human dealings: they’re made in advertisements and political speeches, in books and blogs, in the kitchen and the courtroom.

A common misconception is that arguments ought to lead to an agreement. What they truly aim to achieve, however, is a consensus – that is, complete shared faith in the outcome. So the goal of an argument is not to win, but to win over your audience.

The psychology professor John Gottman led a study that made this idea clear. In observing couples in therapy, he found that the pairs who stayed married had just as many disputes as those who broke up. But there was a crucial difference: partners in long-lasting marriages took the opportunity to solve their issues and reach a shared outcome. In other words, they argued; the couples that broke up simply fought.

In other words, fighting, or being aggressive for the sake of winning an argument, isn’t a good way to argue. It won’t help you reach a consensus. So what’s a better way?

The Greek philosopher Aristotle might have suggested seduction, which he considered the strongest kind of argumentation. Seducing your audience, persuading them to want what you want, is the easiest way to reach a consensus.

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