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  • Writer's pictureDavid de Souza

Thank You for Arguing - 80/20 Summary

Updated: Feb 20, 2022


Mental Models from the book:

I have summarised 'Thank You for Arguing', distilling the book into 22 core principles:

1. Action & Reaction: Newton's 3rd Law
  • If someone makes a claim, for example, We spend too much money. Don't say they are wrong and provide counterexamples. Instead say: Because you deserve to be treated well and I want what's best for you.

2. Activation Energy/Emotions
  • To get people to act, use the emotions of:

    1. Desire

    2. Lust

    3. Joy

    4. Love

    5. Esteem

    6. Compassion

3. Alloying
  • Use layering: "Not only do get this but you also get...."

4. Association
  • "You can persuade a man only insofar as you can talk his language by speech, gesture, tonality, order, image, attitude, idea, identifying your ways with his'.

5. Choice Architecture
  • Powerless people will lash out. Make them feel powerful. Give them the feeling of control.

  • Give the impression you are conceding a plan and not making a choice: "OK, so let's tweak/improve it".

  • When everyone has finished making their point and they are petering out and time is short: Summarise the best 5 opinions in a way that favors you.

  • Identity Strategy: Give the audience a choice of an action that defines them as a group.

  • Personal Sacrifice: Act as if the choice hurts you personally.

  • A logic Sandwich: "Since [commonplace], then we should [your choice].

6. Curiosity Instinct
  • When you encounter a verbally aggressive bully, feign a sympathetic curiosity: asking for definitions, more details and suggested sources.

7. Desire/Emotion
  • Logic alone will not get people to act, they need desire and emotion.

8. Ego
  • Ask people to describe themselves. The first thing they mention will be their identity and who they consider themselves to be.

9. Emotions
  • Emotional Refusal: Don't show the emotion the bully wants you to show. Look calm and you'll gain the audience's sympathy.

  • Use the passive voice to calm emotions. For example: Active: The dog bit the girl. Passive: The girl was bitten by the dog.

  • Don't pre-warn of the emotion you'll invoke, it will inoculate the listener. For example: This will make you laugh.

  • Most people think they use logic but in reality, their decisions are emotional and based on character.

9.1 Emotions: Anger
  • Keep things simple: The more confusing something is, the more annoyed people will become.

  • Anger is the most effective emotion to get people to act.

  • Belittlement Charge: Highlight the opposition belittling your group's values or desires. This will make your group angry.

  • Overcoming someone's anger: "Nothing makes me feel worse than failing to live up to my standards. So I'm going to do everything possible....

9.2 Emotions: Calm
  • You can calm someone's emotions by overemphasizing yours. This works well if you make a mistake and you overplay how stupid you have been.

9.3 Emotions: Shame
  • Over sympathizing: If you exaggerate sympathy you can make a person feel ashamed of their behavior.

10. Feeback-Loops
  • Switch the tense to the future to avoid an argument going around in circles: "How is blaming me going to help with (.....). Let's decide on a plan and figure out how we can get along".

  • "You have heard my opponent brag about his past, but I want to talk about the future."

11. Inversion
  • Reluctant Conclusion: Be reluctant in something you are keen to prove.

12. Language Instinct
  • Instead of using "um" get in the habit of starting a sentence with "and" when being questioned.

13. Liking/Disliking
  • To persuade and move people from their current view, you need to make them feel at ease and comfortable.

14. Mise-en-Place
  • The best order of a speech is: ethos, logos, pathos.

    1. Ethos: Get the audience to like you through: shared values & identity + concern for their interest.

    2. Logos: Use logic and facts to make your case. We should do.... because of...

    3. Pathos: Use patriotism, anger and other emotions that result in action.

15. Momentum
  • When making an argument start from the audience's commonplace (a view that your audience, as a group hold), not yours.

  • Anadiplosis: Build a thought/sentence, on top of another by using the last word/phrase in the sentence to start the next sentence. The momentum builds up to make your delivery unstoppable.

16. Reciprocity
  • Gifts provide a good opportunity to bring ethos and solidify relationships.

17. Second-Order Thinking
  • Achieve a larger goal by admitting you are wrong on a smaller point: "You win. Now, how about we....."

  • Ask a friend to ask a question that would put you in a good position.

18. Sensitivity to Fairness
  • Antithesis: Make it sound like you are carefully weighing up both sides, evaluate the results and come to a conclusion.

19. Status/Ego
  • Most lawsuits (and bad reviews) come from a sense of belittlement. People lash out when they are belittled to increase their status/ego or to shrink yours.

20. Trust
  • You can attack someone reputation without appearing to: "I'm not interested in making personal attacks, but I just want to....(the opposite of their bad character).

21. Utility
  • The single best advice for a beginner actor is to speak louder.

22. Velocity
  • Multiple Yolking: Speak fast. Speak logically. With a succession of verbal punches. This will overwhelm your opponent and wow your audience.


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