• David de Souza

Thank You for Arguing Summary

Updated: Jul 16


Rhetoric is an ancient skill that is no longer taught in school. This is the best book I've found on the subject. No other book that I have read has produced as many nuggets of wisdom that this one.

Want to dig deeper than the core principles? Check out:



Core Principles:


I have summarised 'Thank You for Arguing', distilling the book into 41 core principles:

  1. The best order of a speech is: ethos, logos, pathos.

  2. Ethos: Get the audience to like you through: shared values & identity + concern for their interest.

  3. Logos: Use logic and facts to make your case. We should do.... because of...

  4. Pathos: Use patriotism, anger and other emotions that result in action.

  5. The single best advice for a beginner actor is: Speak louder.

  6. Switch the tense to the future to avoid an argument going around in circles: "How is blaming me going to help with (.....). Let's decide on a plan and figure out how we can get along". "You have heard my opponent brag about his past, but I want to talk about the future.

  7. Gifts provide a good opportunity to bring ethos and solidify relationships.

  8. You can attack someone reputation without appearing to: "I'm not interested in making personal attacks, but I just want to....(the opposite of their bad character)

  9. "You can persuade a man only insofar as you can talk his language by speech, gesture, tonality, order, image, attitude, idea, identifying your ways with his'.

  10. To persuade and move people from their current view, you need to make them feel at ease and comfortable.

  11. Identity Strategy: Give the audience a choice of an action that defines them as a group.

  12. Ask a friend to ask a question that would put you in a good position.

  13. When making an argument start from the audiences commonplace (a view that your audience, as a group hold), not yours.

  14. Ask people to describe themselves. The first thing they mention will be their identity and who they consider themselves to be.

  15. Personal Sacrifice: Act as if the choice hurts you personally.

  16. Antithesis: Make it sound like you are carefully weighing up both sides, evaluate the results and come to a conclusion.

  17. Reluctant Conclusion: Be reluctant in something you are keen to prove.

  18. Logic alone will not get people to act, they need desire and emotion.

  19. Most people think they use logic but in reality, their decisions are emotional and based on character.

  20. Anadiplosis: Build a thought/sentence, on top of another by using the last word/phrase in the sentence to start the next sentence. The momentum builds up to make your delivery unstoppable.

  21. If someone makes a claim, for example, We spend too much money. Don't say they are wrong and provide counterexamples. Instead say: Because you deserve to be treated well and I want what's best for you.

  22. A logic Sandwich: "Since [commonplace], then we should [your choice].

  23. Don't pre-warn of the emotion you'll invoke, it will inoculate the listener. For example: This will make you laugh.

  24. Belittlement Charge: Highlight the opposition belittling your group's values or desires. This will make your group angry.

  25. Anger is the most effective emotion to get people to act.

  26. Most lawsuits (and bad reviews) come from a sense of belittlement. People lash out when they are belittled to increase their status/ego or to shrink yours.

  27. Overcoming someone's anger: "Nothing makes me feel worse than failing to live up to my standards. So I'm going to do everything possible....

  28. You can calm someone's emotions by overemphasizing yours. This works well if you make a mistake and you overplay how stupid you have been.

  29. To get people to act, use the emotions of: desire, lust, joy, love, esteem, compassion

  30. Over sympathizing: If you exaggerate sympathy you can make a person feel ashamed of their behavior.

  31. When everyone has finished making their point and they are petering out and time is short: Summarise the best 5 opinions in a way that favors you.

  32. Emotional Refusal: Don't show the emotion the bully wants you to show. Look calm and you'll gain the audience's sympathy.

  33. When you encounter a verbally aggressive bully, feign a sympathetic curiosity: asking for definitions, more details and suggested sources.

  34. Instead of using "um" get in the habit of starting a sentence with "and" when being questioned.

  35. Use the passive voice to calm emotions. For example: Active: The dog bit the girl. Passive: The girl was bitten by the dog.

  36. Keep things simple: The more confusing something is, the more annoyed people will become.

  37. Powerless people will lash out. Make them feel powerful. Give them the feeling of control

  38. Multiple Yolking: Speak fast. Speak logically. With a succession of verbal punches. This will overwhelm your opponent and wow your audience.

  39. Layering: "Not only do get this but you also get...."

  40. Give the impression you are conceding a plan and not making a choice: "OK, so let's tweak/improve it"

  41. Achieve a larger goal by admitting you are wrong on a smaller point: "You win. Now, how about we....."


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The 80/20 of Worldly Wisdom: