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How to Argue & Win Every Time: At Home, At Work, In Court, Everywhere, Everyday Paperback – April 15, 1996

4.2 out of 5 stars 197 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Lawyer Spence's guide to winning arguments spent 26 weeks on PW's bestseller list.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

A celebrity defense lawyer who garners quantity face-time during publicity-soaked trials, Spence, as attentive O. J.-ers know, is the aw-shucks Wyomingite who hates neckties, prosecutors, bankers, and pretense in general. He also hates losing an argument, which he has rarely done in a courtroom. Here, Spence distills his bar experience into the secrets of his success and translates that into the plain language of the real world of jobs, romance, and child rearing. Spence exhorts readers to believe that the art of arguing is verily the art of living, and aversion to argumentativeness only hinders people from getting what they want. So throughout this disputation, Spence anticipates objections (which he dubs the "Lock" ) and supplies refutations (dubbed the "Key" ). Spence's overall keys to winning are to contend without being contentious, to persuade instead of overwhelming "the Other," and to always be credible. Though discursive in style, Spence's prose is pointedly sharp in essence and displays unself-consciously his own flamboyant personality. Rises above the herd in the conduct-of-life genre. Gilbert Taylor
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (April 15, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312144776
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312144777
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (197 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Wow! Alot of folks who have reviewed this book need a hug and a valium (a potent combination I might add).
Let me start by saying that the title of this book is a bit misleading, and intentionaly so. This book isn't about arguing as much as it's about communicating. Mr. Spence useds the word 'argument' in the context that everything we articulate- whether it's a desire to teach , punish, express wants or state an oppinion- is essentialy an argument.
The twist to this little tome is that effective arguing is not a act of selfishness but a labor of love. A good argument is one in which the greatest good is served.
I particularly found the chapter on arguing with kids quite useful. I tend to be quite authoritarian and rule oriented when it comes to child rearing and this little chapter taught me that kids will grow into responsible loving adults without being constantly hovered over and corraled into so called 'correct behavior'. This chapter is worth the price of the book alone.
I recommend this book to anyone who has ever asked for anything in his/her life. Well hell! I must be recommending this book to everyone.
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Format: Paperback
I dont usually review books that have already been reviewed by more than 20 others, but I need to make an exception for 2 reasons. First, this book is MUST reading for anyone on my negotiating team. While I'm not a Gerry Spence fan, his negotiating style is simple, but very powerful. Second, for the benefit of all potential readers, I need to respond to the anonymous MBA from Austin Texas who reviewed this book and said "Bottom line is that I didnt feel any more prepared for negotiating after I read it". I guarantee that anyone with negotiating responsibilities who does not get something out of this book is not a very good negotiator. Even if you don't want to mimic Gerry's style, at some point in your business career, you're bound to run into someone who negotiates the way Gerry Spence does. If you don't at least understand what's going on, and how to respond in kind, you're doomed to lose that negotiation. If, after reading this book, you feel like you didn't get anything out of it, either reread it or choose another profession.
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Format: Paperback
From the title you might be expecting a book that would teach you how to argue. You won't find it here. You will find some sound advice on how to approach an argument, such as that you will have more success in your argument if you are respectful to the person you are arguing with, and if you try to make the argument from a position where you can find common ground. You will also find some wisdom on arguing in certain situations, for example arguing with at home or with children.

I think the most valuable part of the book is his emphasis of arguing from an emotional perspective. Many people, especially certain groups like men and conservatives, tend to be dismissive of emotional arguments in favor of logical ones. However, Spence shows that emotional arguments are more likely to win than logical ones. The skill of framing a logical argument in an emotional context could be a valuable one.

An important omission in the book is arguing in public. Spence tries to address that, but I have the feeling that Spence has lost the ability to identify with people who have trouble speaking in public and the scanty advice he gives seems ineffective - amounting to "just get over it and do it."

Another drawback of the book is that it contains a fair amount of polemic. So if you're going to find it annoying that Gerry Spence likes to go on tirades about environmentalism and his dislike of bankers you might want to find a different book. I found it distracting from the real purpose of the book.
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Format: Paperback
Books with grandiose titles like this usually keep me from reading them (Hello publisher's marketing department!). A friend of mine recommended that I read this book, and I was glad that I did.
yes, many of Spence's political views (along with my own) are left of center. But it's the PROCESS that this book is all about.
I re-read this book a number of time. This book has helped me to become a better therapist (in fact, this is a book that I recommend in my workshops on using metaphor in psychotherapy). If you are a Jungian or otherwise interested in stories and narratives, this book is a good read.
We are all, in Spence's words, people of the story. All humans love stories, so it only makes sense to incorporate stories into our arguments and discussions (and therapy sessions and legal debates and....)
As I've said, I have re-read this book many times. I particularly enjoy the section on "the power of story" (chp 8?), the section on intuitive speaking and the importance of preparation, and the section on speaking and using your voice.
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Format: Paperback
After reading the book, I then read the negative responses from the reviews posted here - which were as the book predicted. Of 10 that I read, some had constructive ideas but it appeared to me that most negative readers skimmed the book, jumped to conclusions and put words in the author's mouth he didn't say (or took them completely out of context). You never heard anyone do that before, right? For example, one reader opinion of "bad" was:

1. Words are virtually irrelevant- the tone conveys your message.

2. The truth can be found in emotions, not logic.

3. You can win every time merely by denying your opponent your permission to beat you.

In regard to #1, Garry never said "words are virtually irrelevant". He point out that "besides the facts, listen for the tone and try to determine also what is NOT said". In regard to #2, Garry didn't say that either: he pointed out that logic + the human emotional side gives a better picture; sometimes in STORY form". In regard to #3, this is utter rubbish since Garry throughout his book talks about times when winning is sometimes losing (to a loved one) or in other places, winning can be a tactful withdraw and winning sometimes is simply listening. In another place, Garry points out that "unless the other is willing to dialogue, then the argument is pointless". The "permission" mentioned by the reader is taken totally out of context when Garry said "power, real or imagined is what we (mentally) give to the other".

This reader calls himself a "non-liberal". Well, I'm a conservative (for 56 years), still am, and have big ears for liberal spin and prejudice which Garry so well describes as "a room piled to the ceiling with junk...
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