Books that Changed Everything: “Thank You for Arguing”

There are a couple of books that I reread, every year or few years. I reread them, because they contain ideas that have had a huge impact on me. An impact either on my thinking, life and work philosophy, or ways to get things done.

As I write this, I’m on my way back from an internal OLX event. At this event I gave a talk (mixing some elements of the validated learning work we did, and some updated 100x engineering thinking). In preparation of this talk, OLX offered some preparation with a presentation coach. I’ve been speaking for a solid decade now, but I’m always open to learn something new. As part of the preparation session, the trainer (Rutger Mollee), showed the following 5 minute video of Obama:

While we didn’t discuss the rhetorical techniques Obama is employing here (and there are many), it once again reminded me what the power of rhetoric is. The story telling. The self deprecating humor. The timing. And even though Obama’s logic near the end (if one voice can change a room, it can change a city, if it can change a city it can change a nation etc.) doesn’t check out (there’s a logical fallacy) — it works. Goose bumps — but admittedly, I’m a sucker for this sort of stuff.

And this brought me back to the book “Thank you for arguing” by Jay Heinrichs that I first read perhaps 6 years ago. As you can probably tell from the title, this is not a technical book, it’s not even a management book — it’s a book on communication. Communication using rhetoric. While this topic is not new by any stretch — indeed, the concepts of ethos, pathos and logos go back to the time of Aristotle — Heinrichs presents them in a way that’s both hilarious and educational. The sense of humor, the amount of examples from every day life, make it a truly entertaining read.

And so after watching the Obama video, I reread “Thank you for arguing” once more. And likely will continue to do this for many years to come. It has had huge impact on the way I speak and write. My job is more and more about communication, and to some extent, persuasion. This is tricky business, and I need all the help I can get. Rhetorical techniques described in this book, changed a lot for me, and I use many of them regularly.

If you have to convince people of something some times. And my bet is that you do. Give this book a shot. You won’t regret it. Also: watch the Obama video I linked up there. This dude is insanely great at what he does. Respect.