“Any momentary triumph you think you have gained through argument is really a Pyrrhic victory: The resentment and ill will you stir up is stronger and lasts longer than any momentary change of opinion. It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, without saying a word. Demonstrate, do not explicate.”
In the realm of power, you must learn to judge your moves by their long-term effects on other people. The problem in trying to prove a point or gain a victory through argument is that in the end you can never be certain how it affects the people you're arguing with: They may appear to agree with you politely, but inside they may resent you. Or perhaps something you said inadvertently even offended them. Words have that insidious ability to be interpreted according to the other person's mood and insecurities. Even the best argument has no solid foundation, for we have all come to distrust the slippery nature of words. And days after agreeing with someone, we often revert to our old opinion out of sheer habit.
Words are a dime a dozen; everyone knows that in the heat of an argument, we will all say anything to support our cause. We will quote the Bible, refer to unverifiable statistics. Who can be persuaded by bags of air like that? Action and demonstration are much more powerful and meaningful. They are there, before our eyes, for us to see, there are no offensive words, no possibility of misinterpretation. No one can argue with a demonstrated proof. The truth is generally seen, rarely heard.
The most powerful persuasion goes beyond action into symbol. The power of a symbol, a flag, a mythic story, a monument to some emotional event, is that everyone understands you without anything being said. When aiming for power, or trying to conserve it, always look for the indirect route. And also choose your battles carefully. If it does not matter in the long run whether the other person agrees with you, or if time and their own experience will make them understand what you mean, then it is best not even to bother with a demonstration. Save your energy and walkaway.
EXCEPTION TO THE RULE
Verbal argument has one vital use in the realm of power: to distract and cover your tracks when you are practicing deception or are caught in a lie. In such cases it is to your advantage to argue with all the conviction you can muster. Draw the other person into an argument to distract them from your deceptive move. When caught in a lie, the more emotional and certain you appear, the less likely it seems that you are lying. This technique has saved the hide of many a con artist, even The Con Artist In Chief himself: Donald Trump.
Michel Ouellette JMD, ll.l., ll.m.
J. Michael Dennis, ll.l., ll.m.
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