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Re: Ch. 5: Think Again by Adam Grant
Chapter Five begins with a debate between a world record international debate champion and a computer. Rather like those AI machines that have outclassed humans at chess and go, this thing knows everything there is to know about its speciality, debating. But debating is rather different since there is no objectivity in judging who wins, unlike board games. And people don’t much like the idea of being convinced by arguments devised by soulless robots, so the audience tends to mark down the funny jokes that come out of the box.
Grant pretends for most of the chapter that the computer is a child prodigy, although its bizarre autism is a clear giveaway. The topic is whether pre-school education should be subsidised by government, and the person debater ends up winning for the negative. One essential factor in the result was emotional, that people don’t like being bullied by logic, but instead dig in their heels and hold onto their irrational prejudices.
Instead, and this is really interesting, Grant says convincing people is all about a form of negotiation, a dance with a partner who has different steps in mind, aiming for harmony. Expert legal and contract negotiators differ from beginners in several ways. Experts focus only on their strongest points, they aim to find common ground, and they entirely leave out weaker arguments. Apparently weak arguments just weaken strong ones, and don’t add to them. The audience remembers your weak argument, as something they disagree with, and that makes them forget your strong argument. Once you are doubted on one point, you are doubted on everything. So it is best to completely leave weak arguments out of your case.
Getting to yes is about an alliance of mutual interest, not a humiliating defeat. Open a conversation, and don’t go on the attack. Ask polite open questions. Show you are humble and respectful, open to change your opinion, and a good listener. In the debate, the computer was combative and adversarial, because that was what its databank suggested.
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