I've been teaching college argumentation for over twenty years, so with great interest I read How to Argue by Jonathan Herring. The book is divided into two parts, Part 1. The Ten Golden Rules of Argument (Be Prepared, When to Argue, when to walk away; What you say and how you say it; Listen and listen again; Excel at responding to arguments; Watch out for crafty tricks; Develop the skills for arguing in public; Be able to argue in writing; Be great at resolving deadlock; Maintain relationships) and Part 2. Situations where arguments commonly arise.
The format of the book is curious. I can't tell if it's written for the general reader, the high school student, the college freshman, or all of the above. With medium font print and large font headings (Be prepared, What do you want? Framing an Argument, Facts, etc. )and subheadings, the format reminds me of a self-help book. As a result, How to Argue seems more like a dumbed-down primer, perhaps a form of "Arguing for Dummies."
Some people may enjoy this format. I do not. The material seems outdated and remedial. This book has a stale quality about it, like an old textbook you might find written in the 1960s or 1970s. There are no current examples or study of contemporary essays.
However, the book has its virtues. It's easy to read, has clear examples, and makes the beginner feel comfortable in a potentially overwhelming topic: argumentation. It's also based on a very sound, moral premise, as stated in the introduction: We argue, not to "win," but to further our understanding.
Just don't expect this book to be full of nuance and rhetorical complexity. It's for the remedial student of argumentation.
My initial score was 3 stars, but I thought that was unfair since I expected a more advanced treatment of argumentation when in fact the author's intent seems very well to address a beginning audience, so 4 stars seems more appropriate.
I used to teach argumentation theory in my freshman comp classes, and I could see the curtains lowering behind my students' eyes. I thought, all this about coalescent design, Toulmin models, and case construction is so interesting to me, surely my students must share my excitement! Only when I saw them putting my lectures into play did I realize that advanced theory mattered little to anyone not ready for the brass tacks of legitimate argument.
Jonathan Herring, prolific British law professor and ethicist, steps into that gap with a good, brief, spirited introduction to the process of testing ideas through argument. His guide does not provide clues on how to win a quarrel or best somebody in a brannigan. Rather, he demonstrates the best way to speak well, pitch your premise, bolster it in a persuasive manner, and defend it against routine attacks. I wish I'd had this book in my teaching days.
Herring's guide has many advantages. First, it's slim. Readers could slip this book in a briefcase, purse, or outside pocket of a backpack for easy consultation. This jibes with its straightforward organization, so readers can find what they need. Herring divides his book into two parts: ten "golden rules" of productive argumentation, and ten situation-specific approaches to customizing argument. Together, they form a good introduction to primarily verbal debate.
To begin, Herring asks readers to know whether they really want to have the argument at hand. Are you prepared, in command of the facts? Is this the right venue to have this argument? Will this argument do more harm than good for the relationship? Is this argument even worth having? Surely we all share, at least somewhat, the experience of winning the battle and losing the war when we encultured resentments, made ourselves look ignorant, or lost a job.
Herring also recognizes that not all arguments are the same. I appreciate his discussion of how to argue when the participants have unequal power. We cannot approach an argument with our kids, who are essentially powerless, the same way we approach an argument with a spouse, who should be roughly equal, or a boss, who has extreme power over us. We must customize our approach depending on the distribution of power.
If you often find yourself going in circles when trying to sort out differences, or make little headway getting others to take your needs seriously, you need this brief entrée to simple argument. Herring makes short work of a complex subject, in a way that doesn't bog down in extraneous detail or terminology. Hopefully, if a few people in key places follow his advice, we'll see an improved level of discourse in our time.
on August 7, 2012
First of all I am one of those people who does not relish confrontations. However, a confrontation is sometimes necessary to progress for one and all involved.Even though I understand this it has never been easy for me to approach situations, because I did not want people to feel I was attacking them in a personal way. As a manager of 8 employess , I of course face situations from time to time. This book has helped me learn how to approach needed changes in a positve way so that I do not come across as the big bad boss. Suggestions on how to change how I think about the situations,have helped me face more areas that needed change or tweaking with a positive for all involved attitude instead of fear of being misunderstood. My employees have responded more favorably, and love the fact that they feel included and part of the decisions. I love happy employees!
Of course there is always at least on person that loves to argue and push your buttons just because they love the win of beating you at an argument. I might add these arguments usually have no point other than boosting the ego of the person who just needs to feel superior because they won. Well, here is where "How to Argue" really took some stress out of my life. It teaches technique on how to deal with this kind of person as well. It is less fun to push buttons if the arguement it lost, proved to be wrong, or proven to be pointless.
This book could be made into a class course for college first year, and would benifit all groups of people, we all have to deal with these type of unpleasant issues. "How to Argue" teaches how to pick your fights, when to just leave it alone, how to assure people that their concerns are important to you and that you are listening and taking their viewpoint as legitiment and important, then how to discuss instead of argue. It also teaches how to be ready to support yourself with facts and important information in case you need to plead your case for something. A great resource book that is now in the resource section of my home library to be refered to again and again depending on what situation I need some hints and solutions on how to deal with.
on November 6, 2012
My summary of this book, which includes way more than what I write, worth every penny!
Ten rules of arguments
Be prepared for an argument is key to success:
What do you want to do?
What do you want?
Pay raise: arrange meeting
Is there a promotion you can apply for?
Increased training to do?
Offer extra for company>?
Think through options before hand.
You will lose pay raise argument if you don't know that similar workers in yoru company
in other companies are earning.
Supporting facts reasons
Remember you don't have to argue about everything you disagree with.
ask you if this is a the right, TIME, PLACE or person
If not walk away.
Keep it simple and attractive, spend time of how you want to present arguments.
Address in your favor of your case and against it.
you will only persuade someone of something if you address the concerns they have.
In terms that the other person will find convincing
keep quiet, and listen,
TIP: you want to talk with not talk at the other person.
no interruptions...let other person talk
Three ways to respond to argument:
Accept the point they have made, but argue that there are other points that outweigh what has been said.
Accept their challenges and conclusions, but find points that outweigh the argument and make your
Conclusion attractive. By presenting other ways of looking at the situation, or bringing in
other material that might not have been considered, you can get the argument to go your way. Think outside
the box, and don't limit yourself to a prescribed way of looking at a situation.
Remember that to counter any argument you can challenge the facts, challenge the conclusions, or find points that outweigh the conclusion. You now learned the pitfalls
tricks of the trade, so work through each in a practice scenario so that you learn to recognize it when it is used against you.
© 2012 Jackie Paulson
Thankfully this book is not about formal debating, because that's not what most of us do. This book is about strategies for arguing and debating about issues and problems we care about. Though many of us may rather avoid arguments, they are necessary and useful way to communicate and gain insight about all sorts of problems and issues.
The author of "How to Argue: Powerfully, This Recently, Positively," outlines 10 Golden rules for making effective arguments. These rules and strategies are not about always being right, but more importantly about how to listen and help others understand your point of view.
It includes suggestions for both verbal and written arguments, and surprisingly it also covers other situations in which you may find this up in arguments with your love ones, your children, and your coworkers.
And though the book is not about formal debating per se, it does cover the "crafty tricks"such as the "false choice", "red herrings", literalism, "begging the question", and many other "nasty tricks"that we may not be aware of.
While the chapter on to argue with your children and teenagers is probably not going to be sufficient for hardline cases, it still includes some valuable do's and don'ts.
If you are a person who likes to argue, almost feels like you don't always get your point across very well, this book may very well be helpful to you.
There is a classic Monty Python bit called The Argument Sketch in which Michael Palin walks into a complex looking for an argument. He is looking for a chance to debate someone on an issue, a "series of connected statements intended to establish a proposition." The room he's directed to has a man (John Cleese) with a different version of an argument: to merely contradict whatever Palin is saying. It's a funny sketch and came to mind as I read Jonathan Herring's How to Argue.
As you might figure, Herring's idea of argument resembles Palin's version. In fact, Herring goes much further and discusses - as the title states - how to argue. He does this in two basic parts: first by outlining "golden rules" for successful arguing, second by discussing various argument situations.
The golden rules are such things as "Be Prepared" (making sure your argument is framed correctly and supported by facts) and "Watch Out for Crafty Tricks" (discussing various logical fallacies such as circular reasoning and ad hominem attacks). The second part of the book deals with how you deal with coworkers, businesses or children (among others). It also deals with the fact that sometimes you need to compromise and sometimes you need to concede defeat. Not every argument is a winner.
There isn't much her that you can't find in other sources or by using common sense, but the strength of those book is that it puts together these points in a well-organized, concise and clear manner. So even if Herring doesn't really tread on new ground, the ground he does cover is done very well.
on June 30, 2012
I was searching for books on negotiating when I came across this. As most probably know negotiating runs hand in hand with arguing.This little tome is ideal for learning the basics.I can't tell you how many times whether it was with business or just dealing with my kids, I wish I knew some of the techniques in this book.I also might add,I currently teach English where a lot of time is spent on social issues which involve extensive debate. See my guide on "Teaching English Abroad".
If you digest the stuff in this book you will be a better person,teacher,or negotiator. The main gist is having the facts, while the rest details topics as diverse as body language, emotions and ultimately when to walk away.The examples used are excellent and relevant. A great little guide for anyone who needs to understand the basic process for arguing, debating and negotiating. Now to get some of our wacky politicians to read books like this!
on March 20, 2014
This book is well-written and gave me useful strategies for dealing with conflict. Arguing is not typically a shouting match scenario. It may be more appropriately thought of as discussing opposing viewpoints and often trying to persuade someone to see your point of view. The author discusses the best ways to argue, flaws in arguments, arguments in various settings (with spouse, child, work, complaining to a business, etc), what to avoid when arguing, and more. Some of the information is obvious, but overall, I didn't feel like it was just a rehash of things I'd read before. I recommend this book for anyone interested in conflict resolution and/or persuading someone to consider your perspective.
on April 5, 2013
Yes, for me, a person who has a very difficult time arguing, this book takes the cake! I have not read it exactly word for word, but can tell you I have skimmed it over, read this and that, and from what I have read so far, this WILL help me when it comes to having to be argumentative!
I've never been good at being persuasive, so this WILL help me tremendously, if I have to do it. (I hate having to argue, which is probably why I am not good at it.) It is written very well, and the examples given as to 'how' to do it correctly are very good. It is a GREAT book to have and be able to reference back to as well.
I bought this book specifically for myself, and for the reasons stated above, and this book, for me will be a great go-to indeed.
on March 28, 2013
IT IS AN EXCELLENT BOOK. I GIVE 5 STARS, BECAUSE MOST OF THE MATERIALS WE KNOW, STILL WE GET INTO THE SAME GROOVE WHEN WE GET IN THE ARGUMENTS. BEST THING, IS JUST PRACTICE TO REMEMBER THE POINTS WHEN WE ARE IN THE SITUATION. WE WILL STILL FALL IN THE SAME PITFALLS. YET WE CAN SEE THE IMPROVEMENT IN OURSELVES LITTLE AT A TIME.
I WILL RECOMMEND THIS BOOK TO THE PEOPLE WHO GET TOO EXCITED AND GET INTO THE ARGUMENTS OFTEN. ALSO THE PEOPLE WHO THINK- HA.... WE CAN NOT ARGUE WITH THIS PERSON.
THE VOICE OF THE READER(AUDIO) NEEDS TO BE IMPROVE. SPEAKS VERY CLEARLY, BUT SOME TIMES, DOES NOT STOP ENOUGH, WHEN THE PARAGRAPH OR WHEN THE PERSON CHANGES. THIS BOOK IS ALREADY HELPING ME TO KNOW WHEN THERE IS NO NEED TO MAKE MY POINT. IF I MAKE MY POINT, WHICH TECHNIQUE I SHOULD USE, AND STAY CALM. I AM GETTING THERE LITTLE BY LITTLE.