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Reader's Review

John Baker

Getting Your Way Every Day: Mastering the Lost Art of Pure Persuasion
By Alan Axelrod
293 pp. New York: American Management Association, 2007
Paperback (US) $17.95

Alan Axelrod is a consultant to museums and cultural associations and the author of many business “help” books.  He is most widely known for his BusinessWeek bestseller entitled Patton on Leadership: Strategic Lessons for Corporate Warfare.  General George Patton is considered a successful American leader in Europe during World War II.

This book examines the art of rhetoric: the classical method of persuasion developed some 2,500 years ago by the Greeks and perfected by the Romans and later thinkers.  Its thesis is that the principals of rhetoric are correct and provide a path to persuasion as surely today as they did centuries ago. 

“The purpose of this work,” the author tells his reader, “,,, is … to offer modern people … the benefit of a set of tools … and at long last, put them back to work … so that you can get your way every day”(p.9).   Whether or not you can use these tools so successfully that you do “get your way everyday,” I leave to your experience.  What I can assure you, is that the author has created a book of interest and value to all negotiators.

Effective negotiators, at their core, must be persuaders.   Similar to classical scholars, the modern negotiator must be an expert in assembling and presenting compelling arguments, handling opposing views and managing goals and expectations.  This is a book about effectively preparing for and managing that task.

This is a book on an enormous subject and so it has areas that will send readers to additional works for assistance.  I think, for example, of the author’s presentation of syllogistic logic as one of those topics that is far from well-developed.  On the other hand, the author has presented a host of examples to illustrate in detail many of the other concepts with which he deals. 

For the negotiator who is planning a negotiation, the classical model is a workable framework.  As the author explains, the persuasive argument begins with a thesis, moves on to selecting the mode of appeal to be used (reason, emotion, ethics or some combination of the three), and then builds on a five part presentation to accomplish its persuasion of others.

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February 2007