Introduction to The Art of Argument

by Gary Fidel and Linda Cantoni


    The ability to argue—to persuade someone else to see your point of view—is, at bottom, a pretty basic human talent. From about the time we learn to say “Mama” or “Papa,” we’ve begun to argue, in a way—for food, for toys, for just a few more minutes before bedtime. Children are notoriously adept at persuasion; aside from the fact that they’re cute and they know it, they have one important advantage over adults: they can’t help but be simple and direct about what they want and why they want it.

    As we grow up, however, we lose that simplicity and directness. We become complicated, our disputes become complicated, our arguments become complicated. Often when we argue with people, a whole host of facts and emotions crowds our minds, all clamoring for release. We get lost in anger and irrelevancies. We rail against our opponents, and fail to get what we want, because we don’t know how to tell them what we want and why they ought to give it to us. We don’t know how to organize our thoughts or communicate them effectively. In short, we don’t know how to persuade.

    That’s why, in important disputes, people hire lawyers. You might think that what makes a lawyer effective is his or her knowledge of the law. That’s only partly true. Most lawyers carry in their heads a good amount of law, but they still have to do some legal research before they open their mouths or put pen to paper. What mainly makes a lawyer effective is that he or she was trained to think like a lawyer. Law school teaches would-be lawyers a method of logical thinking and persuasive arguing that applies to any legal matter or dispute.

    Thinking like a lawyer is no deep dark trade secret. Anyone of reasonable intelligence can do it. You don’t need three years of law school, $60,000 in student loans, or a three-day bar exam to make a persuasive argument. In this book, we’ll show you how to do it and do it well. All it takes is the discipline to organize your thoughts before you express them, and to keep your arguments as simple and direct as possible. We can’t guarantee that you’ll win every time, but you’ll certainly give your opponents a run for their money every time.