Tactics Read Through: Chapter 6


Summary:When we get into conversations with others where we feel overwhelmed or manipulated, there are some tactics we can use which will help us have a more profitable conversation and charitable ending.

“The approach rarely works, because it violates a fundamental rule of engagement: never make a frontal assault on a superior force in an entrenched position. An unwritten law of nature seems to govern exchanges like these: the man with the microphone wins.” (Location: 1,285)

Note:The Professor’s Ploy is to switch the burden of proof on the student and demand a defense before the student has even voiced an opinion.

“There’s a better way. Don’t disengage. Instead use your tactics. Raise your hand and ask a question. For starters, you might ask, “Professor, can you give us a little more detail on what you mean? What kind of fable are you talking about? Do you think nothing in the biblical documents has any historical value? Is everything in the book a fanciful invention of some sort? What’s your opinion?” Notice that these are all creative variations of our first Columbo question, “What do you mean by that?”” (Location: 1,288)

“Instead when you find yourself facing any form of the you-prove-me-wrong challenge, politely shift the burden back where it belongs—on the person who made the claim.” (Location: 1,309)

Note:Again going back to, “How did you come to that conclusion?”

“The Professor’s Ploy is the attempt any person makes to shift the burden of proof for his claim onto someone else. The professor (in this case) demands that students defend views they have not expressed, sidestepping his own responsibility to give an account of his beliefs.” (Location: 1,316)

“Do not be afraid to question your professors. Challenge them on your terms, though, not theirs. And do it with grace, respect, and tact. You don’t have to be the expert on every subject. You don’t have to have all the answers. You can still be effective even when you know very little, if you ask the right questions.” (Location: 1,318)

“When you feel overmatched and overwhelmed in a conversation, immediately shift from persuasion mode to fact-finding mode. Don’t continue to argue your case. Instead, using your first two Columbo questions, become a student of the other person’s view by asking for clarification and for reasons.” (Location: 1,342)

Note:This is how we “Get out of the hot seat”

“Many people you talk to will struggle when you turn the tables by asking them to give evidence for their claims or by using questions to expose their bad thinking. When a person has not thought much about his assertions, avoiding your questions may be his only recourse. He may try to change the subject or reassert his point in other ways. When this happens, it may be helpful for you to narrate the debate. Take a moment to step outside of the conversation, in a sense, and describe to your friend the turn the discussion has just taken. This will help him (and others listening) to see how he’s gotten off course.” (Location: 1,380)

Note:Narrating the debate both helps me and the others remain honest.

“When you’re dealing with an evasive or intellectually dishonest person, don’t let him get off the hook by dodging the issues or distorting the argument. Narrating the debate keeps the other person honest while keeping the conversation cordial. Encourage him to clarify himself. Call him on any false moves he’s made. Forcing him to face the music may be the first step toward a change of mind, either his or that of others listening.” (Location: 1,404)