The Joy of Argument ~ Albert Navaara


Date Completed:3/13/2016

Navaara has compiled 91 small arguments about arguing, “ways to get more of what you want, and less of what you don’t.” Each section speaks to ways in which arguments are successful, and how to craft successful arguments that will sway the other person to see your points.

I didn’t really like the format of this book, how it was broken up into small sections, each of which was an argument. I suppose that makes each argument succinct and focuses on small ways to make your personal arguments stronger, but if felt too choppy and broken up. I prefer more cohesive formats, that discuss how each topic plays into the next.

At first I took some offense to what Navaara was saying about how people shouldn’t just use “racist” even if a person is racist, but I recognize what he was intending about not using provocative language. Somebody may very well be racist, and using racist language or basis of thought, but using the word racist shuts people down. Racist is a word I tend to use when I am tired of trying to explain to people over and over how systems promote institutional racism, how micro-aggressions work, and why language choice plays into racism. It’s an easy argument, but it has become, as Navaara explains later on, a hot-button word that provokes and angry and hurt response. You don’t want to listen to someone tell you that you are a word with negative connotations. Instead of opening up a discussion about why word choice is so important to create an inclusive society that reduces institutional racism rather than perpetuating the problem, that individual feels like it is a personal attack. They feel like you’ve condemned them and there is no hope for their future.

Navaara stresses that in order to make a good argument, we have to avoid making any argument personal. He also argues that emotions alone are not valid in place of facts, and that it’s important to acknowledge whether our argument comes from a place of emotion or a place of facts.

There are lots of good tips in there about how to probe people to see if they are open to discussion or if they are operating from a closed perspective. Although I don’t agree with all of his language choice, this is a lot of what we talk about in Social Work classes. If someone makes an argument such as (to use a line from the book), “‘Homosexuality should be illegal because it is unnatural;’ replace the key term ‘homosexuality’ with something the other person accepts should be legal, like anesthesia. ‘So would you argue that anesthesia should be illegal because it also is unnatural?'” Flipping phrases in this way allows other people to actually hear their own argument, hear what they are saying in a new way that can hopefully show them that they are not basing their argument on facts.

Overall I felt there was a lot of merit to this book. Navaara certainly knows a lot about crafting arguments, and I found many sections to be beneficial to slowing down my own arguments and thinking about how I am arguing. I would definitely recommend this book to people who don’t often take the time to think about how they talk with other people.

I received a copy of this book from the author via in exchange for an honest review.


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