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Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion

123 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0307341440
ISBN-10: 0307341445
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Magazine executive Heinrichs is a clever, passionate and erudite advocate for rhetoric, the 3,000-year-old art of persuasion, and his user-friendly primer brims with anecdotes, historical and popular-culture references, sidebars, tips and definitions. Heinrichs describes, in "Control the Tense," Aristotle's favorite type of rhetoric, the deliberative, pragmatic argument that, rather than bogging down on past offenses, promises a future payoff, e.g., a victim of office backstabbing can refocus the issues on future choices: "How is blaming me going to help us get the next contract?" To illustrate "Control the mood," Heinrichs relates Daniel Webster's successful rhetorical flourish in a murder case: he narrated the horrific murder by following Cicero's dictum that when one argue emotionally, one should speak simply and show great self-control. Readers who want to terrify underlings into submission will learn from Heinrichs that speaking softly while letting your eyes betray cold fury does the trick handily. Thomas Jefferson illustrates Heinrichs's dictum "Gain the high ground"; keenly aware of an audience's common beliefs and values, Jefferson used a rhetorical commonplace (all people are created equal) to launch the Declaration of Independence. (Feb. 27)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"[Listeners] who want to terrify underlings into submission will learn from Heinrichs that speaking softly while letting your eyes betray cold fury does the trick handily." ---Publishers Weekly --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (February 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307341445
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307341440
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

I spent 26 years as a writer, editor and publishing executive before heading to the North Woods and devoting most of my time to rhetoric. I give frequent workshops to corporations, colleges, schools, and organizations. (See my website,, for details.) My stints include deputy editor of Outside Magazine, editorial director of a magazine group at Rodale, Inc., chair of the Ivy League Magazine Network, founding editor of Attache Magazine, and creative VP for a spectacularly unsuccessful dotcom.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Michael Vegis on March 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
The book not only shows how to argue, it also reveals the tricks behind advertising and political campaigns. Heinrichs walks us through the basic rhetorical principles, starting with "ethos, pathos and logos," or character, emotion and logic. Character is the most important, he says, because your audience is much more likely to accept your point if it likes and trusts you. He shows how to construct the image of a leader to suit any audience--useful for anyone who manages people, or wants to.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Richard Griffiths on September 18, 2010
Format: Paperback
I have a large collection of persuasion books-some truly excellent-this one is right at the top. I bought it two weeks ago and it's looking much older now-with good reason.

This book offers you a choice: allowing you to control the argument or allowing the argument to control you. Jay has made esoteric seeming rhetoric into everyday practicality. Illustrating clearly how we all use elements of rhetoric in our daily lives, he goes on to demonstrate how to improve and structure it. Arguments, in the true rhetorical sense, become more productive, pleasurable and useful as a result.

I wish I'd had this book when I was a teenager; I would love to get my brothers kids to read it-what an advantage they would have, especially in building a career-never mind dodging the fallacious nonsense argued in the media and in politics.

Flowing easily from offense, defence, advanced defence-finally culminating in advanced agreement; Jay structures his discussion using ethos, pathos and logos succinctly, weaving tips, anecdotes and everyday examples into every page.

The Appendices are well thought out, the first being a total gem.
Entitled The Tools, here they are:

Goals-Set the tense:
* Personal Goal: What do you want from your audience
* Audience Goals: Mood, Mind and Willingness to Act.

Issue Control:
* The past is forensic-guilt and innocence, such as a court case.
* The present values-demonstrative-Praise and Blame.
* The future-the rhetoric of politics and good argument, what is best for the audience.
Ethos-Argument by character
* Decorum-Ability to fit in with the audience's expectations of a trustworthy leader.
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43 of 49 people found the following review helpful By R. Kollaras on March 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
The chapter on figures of speech is worth the price alone. They help you come up with snappy answers and intelligent things to say when you normally freeze up. And they've helped me write better. Some of the terms can be a mouthful, like paralipsis, anadiplosis and diazeugma, but there's a glossary in the back. Plus you don't actually have to know the words themselves, just the principles behind them.
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228 of 279 people found the following review helpful By rbnn on November 20, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a useful, well-written book focusing on using the tools of rhetoric to persuade people of things. It's different from most books on rhetoric by emphasizing contemporary, realistic examples - trying to get a promotion, win a client, make a sale, convince someone to vote a certain way - and by focusing on how people really decide things, not on idealistic versions of that. Thus, the author does a very good job of discussing why "decorum", fitting in, is important, and how it is important to know what motivates the other person. And it's different from books on psychology and people-skills, like How to Win Friends and Influence People, because it focuses mainly on rhetoric.

The writing is anecdotal and personal, full of jokes, some of them funny, and references to pop culture. I felt the second half of the book became a bit disorganized - it was sometimes not precisely clear to me whether the author was discussing logos, pathos, or ethos, or exactly where a chapter fit into the big scheme of things. But it's certainly well-written.

And the book is unquestionably useful, both in identifying and in using rhetorical techniques. Frankly, I wish I'd had this book when I was younger: I used to think persuasion was based entirely on logic. There are many day-to-day interactions and even career decisions that would be greatly aided by knowing the material here.

Although the book is entertaining, useful, even important, I nevertheless had a couple complaints.

(1) There were a number of errors in the identification and naming of rhetorical figures. Although these errors were likely just due to sloppy editing, I felt they would substantially confuse most readers.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Momma Di on July 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed the book so much that I signed up to received regular emails illustrating "figures" of speech, as they are used popular media. Jay Heinrichs presents the fundamentals of rhetorics in an unpretentious and transparent manner. A lot of information is presented, and I have come to regret, like Heinrichs, that rhetoric is not taught in schools. I would have benefited from having learned these concepts in grade school. Having been persuaded the power of these techniques, I did get a little bored with the ending, where he makes a case that a rhetorically-trained society would be a more democratic one. While I enjoyed the book tremendously, I didn't give it a "5" because I felt the production of the book was poor. I had to send back my first one because it was defective (missing 30 pages), and the layout of the pages looks like it was done by a high-schooler. Also, I thought the conclusion a bit anticlimactic.
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