don't win through your argument but thorough your action


Any momentary triumph you think you have gained
through argument is really a Pyrrhic victory: The resentment and ill will you stir up is stronger and lasts longer
than any momentary change of opinion. It is much more
powerful to get others to agree with you through your
actions, without saying a word. Demonstrate, do not
1 1 11 ,I I 1 \ " I'-Il
I I II \ 1I11 I!
A vi;i('/" had servcd his
l}ws/er Iur ,\Ollll' [hirty
.",curs lind H/lIS kl10wn
1I1l11 11dlllired flJr his
loyally, lrulh/ii/IICSS,
and devotion to Got/.
I Jis honeSt)', howcver,
had lIlade hilll mallV
(,Ilc/nies in fhe court,
",lw spread slories of
his duplicilv lIlId
perfidv. Filey worked
Oll Ihe sIlIlall dav il1
lIlId day 0111 IIl1lil he Wo
callle to dislrl/sl Ihe
illll()C(,1l1 vizier and
finallv ordernl Ihe IWIII
who lliul ser\'ed hi/ll so
weil 10 he plll 10 dealh.
/11 rhis realIlI, Ihose
cOlldel/ll1ed 10 delllh 

�verl' lied llfJ lind
IhmwlI inlo Ihe pell
where 111(' sllilan " 1'
his Iiercesl hllntin!!,
do!!,s. Fhe r len days.
The sultan Iws seen Ihe
r('slIlt for !timsc!! I
have look"d afler you
for rhirty years, and
what is the reslIll? I am
condemned (0 death Oll
Ihe strength of aCCIISIläons hrought by my
\' . .. The sullan
blus!ted wilh sharne.
He not only pardofled
Ihe vizier hut gave him
{/ fine set of clothes ami
hwuled over Iu hirn the
men who had slandered
his repulalion. The nohle
vizier set Ihnn free and
continlled to Ireat Ihem
wirh kindlless.
LAW 9 71
Tl lf:

When Apries had been
deposed in the way I
have described, Amasis
came to the throne. He
belonged to the district
of Sais and was a
native of the town
cal/ed Siuph. At first
the Egyptians were
inclined to be contemptuous, and did not
think much of him
because ofhis humble
and undistinguished
origin; but later on he
cleverly brought them
to heel, without having
recourse to harsh
Amongst his innumerable treasures, he had a
gold footbath, whieh he
and his guests used on
occasion to wash their
feet in. This he broke
up, and with the material had a statue made
to one of the gods,
which he then set up in
what he thought the
most suitable spot in
the city. 

The Egyptians
constantly eoming
upon the statue, treated
it with profound re verenee, and as soon as
Amasis heard of the
effeet it had upon them,
he cal/ed a meeting and
revealed the fact that
the deeply revered
statue was unce a footbath, which they
washed their feet and
pissed and vomited in.
He went on to say that
his own case was much
the same, in that on ce
he had been only an
ordinary person and
was now their king; so
that just as they had
come to revere the
transformed footbath,
so they had better pay
72 LAW 9
Michelangelo knew that by changing the shape of the nose he might ruin
the entire sculpture. Yet Soderini was a patron who prided hirnself on his
aesthetic judgment. To offend such a man by arguing would not only gain
Michelangelo nothing, it would put future commissions in jeopardy.
Michelangelo was too clever to argue. His solution was to change
Soderini's perspective (literally bringing hirn closer to the no se) without
making hirn reaHze that this was the cause of bis misperception.
Fortunately for posterity, Michelangelo found a way to keep the perf�ction of the statue intact while at the same time making Soderini believe
he had improved it. Such is the double power of winning through actions
rather than argument: No one is offended, and your point is proven.
In the realm of power you must leam to judge your moves by their longterm effects on other people. The problem in trying to prove a point or
gain a victory through argument is that in the end you can never be certain
how it affects the people you're arguing with: They may appear to agree
with you politely, but inside they may resent you. Or perhaps something
you said inadvertently even offended them-words have that insidious
ability to be interpreted according to the other person's mood and insecurities. Even the best argument has no solid foundation, for we have all come
to distrust the slippery nature of words. And days after agreeing with someone, we often revert to our old opinion out of sheer habit.
Understand this: Words are a dime a dozen. 

Everyone knows that in
the heat of an argument, we will all say anything to support our cause. We
will quote the Bible, refer to unverifiable statistics. Who can be persuaded
by bags of air like that? Action and demonstration are much more powerful and meaningful. They are there, before our eyes, for us to se�"Yes,
now the statue's no se does look just right." There are no offensive words,
no possibility of misinterpretation. No one can argue with a demonstrated
proof. As Baltasar Graciän remarks, "The truth is generally seen, rarely
Sir Christopher Wren was England's version of the Renaissance man.
He had mastered the sciences of mathematics, astronomy, physics, and
physiology. Yet during bis extremely long career as England's most celebrated architect he was often told by his patrons to make impractical
changes in his designs. Never once did he argue or offend. He had other
ways of proving his point.
In 1688 Wren designed a magnificent town hall for the city of Westminster. The mayor, however, was not satisfied; in fact he was nervous. He
told Wren he was afraid the second floor was not seeure, and that it could
all come crashing down on his office on the first floor. He demanded that
Wren add two stone columns for extra support. Wren, the consummate engineer, knew that these columns would serve no purpose, and that the
mayor's fears were baseless. But build them he did, and the mayor was
grateful. It was only years later that workmen on a high scaffold saw that
the columns stopped just short of the ceiling.
They were dummies. But both men got what they wanted:

 The mayor
could relax, and Wren knew posterity would understand that his original
design worked and the columns were unnecessary.
The power of demonstrating your idea is that your opponents do not
get defensive, and are therefore more open to persuasion. Making them literally and physically feel your meaning is infinitely more powerful than argument.
A heckler once interrupted Nikita Khrushchev in the middle of a
speech in which he was denouncing the crimes of Stalin. "You were a colleague of Stalin's," the heckler yelled, "why didn't you stop hirn then?"
Khrushschev apparently could not see the heckler and barked out, "Who
said that?" No hand went up. No one moved a muscle. After a few seconds
of tense silen ce, Khrushchev finally said in a quiet voice, "Now you know
why I didn't stop hirn." Instead of just arguing that anyone facing Stalin
was afraid, knowing that the slightest sign of rebellion would mean certain
death, he had made them feel what it was like to face Stalin-had made
them feel the paranoia, the fear of speaking up, the terror of confronting
the leader, in this case Khrushchev. The demonstration was visceral and no
more argument was necessary.
The most powerful persuasion goes beyond action into symbol. The
power of a symbol-a flag, a mythic story, a monument to some emotional
event-is that everyone understands you without anything being said. In
1975, when Henry Kissinger was engaged in some frustrating negotiations
with the Israelis over the return of part of the Sinai desert that they had
seized in the 1967 war, he suddenly broke off a tense meeting and decided
to do some sight-seeing. He paid a visit to the ruins of the ancient fortress
of Masada, known to all Israelis as the place where seven hundred J ewish
warriors committed mass suicide in A.D.

 73 rather than give in to the
Roman troops besieging them. The Israelis instantly understood the message of Kissinger's visit: He was indirectly accusing them of courting mass
suicide. Although the visit did not by itself change their minds, it made
them think far more seriously than any direct warning would have. Symbols like this one carry great emotional significance.
When aiming for power, or trying to conserve it, always look for the
indirect route. And also choose your battles carefully. If it does not matter
in the long run whether the other person agrees with you-or if time and
their own experience will make them understand what you mean-then it
is best not even to bother with a demonstration. Save your energy and
walk away.
honor and respeet to
him, tao. In this way
the Egyptians were
persuaded to aceept
him as their master.
The Most High God
had promised that He
would not take Abraham 's soul unless the
man wanted to die and
asked Him to da so.
When Abraham 's Life
was drawing to a elose,
and God determined to
seize him, He sent an
angel in the guise of a
deerepit old man who
was almost entirely
ineapaeitated. The old
man stopped outside
Abraham :y door and
said to him, "Oh Abraham, I would like
something to eat. 

Abraham was amazed
10 hear him say this.
" Die, " exclaimed Abraham. "It wOllld be
better for you than to
go on living in that
condition. .
Abraham always kept
food ready at his home
for passing guests. So
he gave the old man a
bowl conlaining broth
and meat with bread
crumbs. The old man
sal down 10 eal. He
swallowed laboriously,
with greal effort, and
onee when he look
same food it dropped
from his hand, scattering on the grollnd. "Oh
Abraham, " he saiel.
LAW 9 73
"help me to cat. " A hraham took the food in
his hand and lifted it to
the old man :5 lip.\". Hut
it slid down his heard
and over his ehest.
" What is your age, olli
man?" asked Ahraham.
The oltl man
mentioned a numher of
years slightly greater
than Ahraham :, old
ag". Then Ahraham

"Oh Lord
Our God, take me unto
You hefore I reach this
man :, age ami sink into
the same conditiofl as
he is in now. " No
SOOfler had Ahraham
spoken those words
than God took {Josse,\'­
sion of his soul.
74 LAW 9
Image : The Seesaw. Up and down
and up and down
go the arguers,
getting nowhere
fast. Get off the
seesaw and show
them your meaning without kick
ing or p u shing.
Leave them at the
top and let gravity
bring them gently
to the groun d .
Authority: Never argue. In society nothing must be discussed; give only results, (Benjamin Disraeli, 1804-1881)

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