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Archived entry | Matt Wilcox .net

On arguing effectively

Have you ever noticed something about the most convincing and inspiring people?

Bruce Lee was one of the greatest athletes and martial-artists who ever lived as well as a learned philosopher. He spoke about malleability and strength of character:

Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless - like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend

Bruce Lee

All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns.

Bruce Lee

If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.

Bruce Lee

Mother Teresa became well-known internationally for her humanitarian work and advocacy for the rights of the poor and helpless. Martin Luther King had a dream.

All were hugely respected and hugely influential. It’s not because of what they said, or how often they said it. It’s because of what they did.

Arguing powerfully

Don’t rely on words. Don’t rely on intellect or insight. Use action. What you do is far more potent a message to everyone than what you say. Bruce Lee was eloquent, but no one would have listened were he not an embodiment of his beliefs. Martin Luther King was eloquent, but no one would have been convinced of his words were it not for his actions. Mother Teresa became an international symbol by speaking the international language of action.

Words are things of the mind. They are not things of the world. People respond most and understand best the things of the world.

Arguing effectively

All three of those inspiring people were effective for another reason. They invited people to join them - they did not lecture people to think a certain way or be a certain thing. People don’t want to be told how to think or how to feel. If your argument is powerful enough and resonant enough people will want to follow. If you want to inspire you show and you lead, you don’t push. When you lecture and you push, you lose people.

To argue effectively, don’t talk too much. People can fill in their own reasons and motivations - if you go into detail about your own they invariably won’t quite fit. You will lose people at that point.

Being eloquent and having a well formed argument backed up with facts and figures is important and it is needed. But it is far from the only thing you need to be effective in convincing people to believe in something you believe.

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