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Reader’s Review, April 2012

By John D. Baker

How to Win Any Argument: Without Raising Your Voice,
Losing Your Cool, or Coming to Blows, Revised Edition

By Robert Mayer
250pp. Pompton Plains, New Jersey: The Career Press, Inc., 2011
Soft cover (USA) $15.99

This magazine reviewed Robert Mayer’s work entitled How to Win Any Negotiation in December 2011. Mr. Mayer’s How to Win Any Argument complements that work. Together the two volumes present a valuable insight into the art of effective interaction by an author who knows the field based on over forty years experience as an attorney practicing the craft of argument.

Mr. Mayer holds degrees in both business and law from the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of several books, a frequent guest negotiation expert on radio and television, and a popular provider of seminars and workshops.

Argument, as used in this work, follows the classic definition of the term as “an exchange of views for the purpose of exploring a subject or deciding an issue.” (Merriam Webster’s Dictionary).” In combination as well alone, Mr. Mayer’s two volumes address the basic building blocks for any negotiating effort.

Throughout this work, readers will find the subject of argument comes alive through the author’s frequent advice on what works and what does not, clear descriptions of a variety of tactics to achieve success, and an array of tips on how to most effectively use a wide range of communication mechanisms in the process. All this is seasoned by a wealth of supporting anecdotes the author has provided to enrich his case.

In addressing his topic, Mayer provides advice that readers are certain to find both accurate and helpful. For examples, the author states persuasively that arguments should be structured as numbered points with three as the most effective number. He tells us this three point underpinning has many advantages, not the least of which are that the recipient can remember three points most clearly. Many arguments are structured is such a form as readers will know, of course. The exception that proves the rule, however, is the performance of Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, in one of the recent U.S. Presidential Republican debates. Governor Perry announced that if he were to be elected President he would eliminate three current agencies of federal government. All went well as Perry ticked off the first agency, the second agency, and then after a long silence, had to admit that he could not remember the third agency. Clearly, this formula is not fail-safe.

Of course, this Presidential debate event occurred recently and Mr. Mayer could not have anticipated it when he wrote his book. The advice remains solid, of course, as do Mr. Mayer’s many other suggestions for building an argument’s case.

In addition to advice, Mayer presents his reader with a range of tactics to accomplish an argument’s objectives. He introduces and explains techniques to avoid seemingly intractable differences through sub-agreements to employ decision-making methods in situations that threaten to become deadlocks, tactics to utilize “glow away” offers that expire as time passes, and ways to harness the power of concrete words to create mind images that sweep away the cobwebs surrounding abstract words.

Lastly, readers will find Mayer’s assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of communication vehicles for presenting effective arguments. What is the impact of using voice mail, e-mail, telephone calls or meetings on argument success? How does one best use such alternatives? How does one best control the risks of each communication medium?

Each of these questions is vital to the success or failure of argument. Robert Mayer uses his experience to answer them.

This is an ideal book for the new negotiator and one that will be bring back hosts of memories to the experienced negotiator.


John D. Baker, Ph.D.

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The Negotiator Magazine (April, 2012) Copyright © 2012 The Negotiator Magazine