Sunday, August 2, 2015

How To Win Any Argument - Robert Mayer

This could well be a 'How to influence outcomes' book - which probably means the same thing. It begins very well - with a litany of things we do and mess up our arguments - defending our positions, resisting change, justifying ourselves, being attached to the familiar, withholding information, distorting, saying what we say well and nothing else, shifting between right to righteous, taking a stand but not understanding, relying on premonitions. (I'm guilty on most counts.)

If so - fix he says, don't postpone.

Gain Self-Control
First up Mayer says we should practice having a still centre. Get self control. Respond, don't react, control your emotions. have the power to pause. Mayer says we all act under influence. We see things the way we want to see them. we color the world with our expectations. We conclude from assumptions. We are influenced by the herd. We don't let go of the peanut like the African monkeys. (Story - In Africa hunters place a coconut with a hole large enough for a monkey's hand to go in but small enough not to let its fist come out. Inside the hole they place a honey-coated peanut. The monkeys reach in, grab the peanut and find they cannot get their fist out. But they do not let go and are trapped with the coconut. We are like that with our egos, not letting go to the extent of killing ourselves.) We act on imperfect information.

The Consent Zone
Once you develop a still centre, construct a 'consent zone' to set the tone and mood for 'a no blows argument'. Do stuff the audience identifies with. Have the right people say the right things to them. Set the climate to win. Introduce icebreakers. Make them comfortable. Allow them speaking time. (Story - There's this lovely story of the first hotel that used an elevator on the outside. Hotel El Cortez of San Diego had only one lift and had no provision for another without breaking up the insides. A janitor who was listening said - have the elevator on the outside and that brought the first elevator on the outside concept.) Don't be a know it all and put off others. Learn instead to be enthusiastic. Learn to appreciate. Compliment promptly. It wins people over. Gloss over hostility. If need be apologise, conclusively and unconditionally.

Form a link inside the consent zone
Having constructed a consent zone work towards forming a link inside the consent zone. Here he says nothing works like the human touch. (The real lesson one learns in the world is how to interact with others.) You must feel right. (Story - how a respectable person in society is blackmailed by a secret gay partner into paying him large sums of money. As the demands increase the first person stops paying. The blackmailer take shim to court with evidence of promises of financial support. But the jury lets the accused go because of a small act - he requests his wife and children to leave the court room when the lurid details were being argued. An act of sensitivity that saved him. A human touch). And another story. (Story - how an upcoming lawyer, young and well heeled carried an old, battered briefcase which was out of character only because it belonged to his dead father. It showed a human streak that endeared him to many.) Listen, than speak. Show your concern. Show vulnerability. What you like is what I like. Make others feel important. To be other-centric use the Q-S-Q method - the question sandwich method which means - question-silence-question. Share feelings - be empathetic. Create an aura of shared power - of interactive power. Involve the others in the process. Be credible.

Lead inside consent zone
Having formed a link within the consent zone you must 'lead' inside the consent zone. People are influenced by what they hear, not what you say. Say relevant stuff. Be aware of what's in it for him. People judge by comparing, so offer comparisons and influence decisions. Understand human psychology. Be precise (use numbers). Use testimonials. Get experts to endorse. Use powerful stories. Be consistent.

Creating bullet proof arguments
Then learn how to create a bullet proof argument. (Logic story - 3 chaps go to a hotel and get a room for 30 bucks. They pay 10 bucks each. The hotel boy comes and say its actually only 25 and returns 5 dollars in one bills. They take one each and give the boy 2 bucks as a tip. But then it means that in effect they spent 9 dollar each (10-1) and gave a 2 buck tip. What happened to the missing dollar?) . Be brief but deliver solid content. Use the biz card test - get your core argument on the back of a biz card. Facts and analysis are different things. Don't strut all your stuff at the same time. Use numbers to get it across - 5 ways to, 10 things to do...
Don't do these - generalise, use common knowledge or use weak illustrations

Know what to say, when and how

Build an inventory of magic words and phrases. Craft analogies. Impact with image-words. Disrupt with fresh words. Use mind grabbing analysis. Use persuasive speak words and labels.

Cinch consent. 
Give them something to aim at. (Story - The men's room story at two airports is a wonderful story of human psychology. Its about how one airport tells the gents using urinals to make less of a mess by telling them to 'stand close' while the other simply put a small picture of a fly on the urinal. All men instantly aimed at the fly! Less mess, more fun.)
What's rewarded gets done so understand the art of rewarding. Give them less - scarcity drives people to you. Create a need to reciprocate. Promise to fulfill aspirations. Empower people. Complete people. Make it sexy as if they need to catch a wave, whats hot. Enhance their self image. Understand their need for recognition. (Story - Tommy Lee's case of being a drummer in Motley Crew did not give him recognition and he did many things to show his craving for recognition - he finally found happiness only after he formed a band and became a lead singer.)
Now the all important Call for action - what you want others to do. Be silent if nothing happens. Something will happen.

Managing stonewalls
Use creativity to solve problems. (Story - A man gives his 3 arguing brothers 17 camels to be divided in the ration of 1/2, 1/3 and 1/9. They are deadlocked. A wise man adds his one camel to the flock. The first then gets 9, the second gets 6 and the third gets 2 making a total of 17. The wise man takes his camel and leaves.) Manage stone walls by telling them what they expect, want and need to hear - and if possible take action contrary to expectations.

To gain consent from family and friends - first be equal, do 75 listening/25 % talking, practice Q-S-Q, use 'I feel' statements.

Using writing well
Use writing to win.Use human touch to link up. The less you write, the more they remember. Be reader friendly. Name your ideas so they remember. Craft bylines. Paint mind pictures. Use rhyming words.

All in all, what Robert Mayer wants us to do is understand human psychology well to be ahead of the game. That does not merely mean that we fool people, we make genuine connections, authentically. It is certainly  about dropping the ego, being more other-centric and making them feel special. He gently hints at using powerful communication to get our point across. In fact much of what he says applies to great speakers and communicators, punchy lines, lines that hit home, lines that grab, words and images that influence. It needs thinking, practice and preparation. It needs patience. It needs knowledge and it needs creativity. It needs intelligence.

If we can think ahead, think of the others, put our ego aside and speak to them in a language they understand, we can pretty much get our point across well. We can conclude most things well. He also emphasises the need for genuine human connections as opposed to hi-tech solutions. If there were five things to take - drop ego, be other centric, prepare well so you can say the right things at the right time, use powerful communication and seal the deals with gentle influencers.

But I do like the idea of arguments, of long drawn arguments, of negotiations, of tough stands. It must be like a game. I don't know if I have the stomach for that. Mayer does give information that could really help. He deconstructs the process nicely and gives a structure making it much easier to see where we stand and what needs to be done. The book of full of stories and anecdotes told in a machine gun fire manner and I had to read it more than once - he does believe in scarcity drawing people.  

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