How to win any debate according to Tim Ferriss

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Having debates or arguments is part and parcel of running your own business, whether it’s with a supplier, business partner, or even a customer.

Though some relish in the opportunity to trade verbal barbs, these conversations can often go around in circles, or even just devolve into mindless contradiction.

But self-help guru and investor Tim Ferriss has one trick to sway people to your view, based on the practices of Roman philosopher Seneca.

He explained what he calls the “Trojan Horse” manoeuvre at an event in February, reports Business Insider.

Read more: Why rational arguments fail (and what you should be doing instead)

Ferriss explained that through a famous collection of letters known as the “Tao of Seneca”, Seneca writes to his friend Lucilius and persuades him to his way of thinking by using Lucilius’ own arguments.

“The way that Seneca tries to convert Lucilius, or convince him to listen to him … he would often open or close with something very powerful from Epicurus (a Greek philosopher) [that supported Seneca’s argument], because he knew Lucilius was a big fan,” Ferriss told the Commonwealth Club’s Inforum.

Seneca isn’t the only famous historical thinker Ferriss draws on to demonstrate good debating skills; at the event he also referred to the tactics of famous biologist Charles Darwin.

“He would take the potential opposition’s viewpoint and strengthen it, make it as credible and powerful as possible, and put it into his own writing so he could address it,” Ferriss said of Darwin.

These examples show the importance of selecting the write words when trying to persuade someone. But being able to sell a story is also about what you can add to the words, according to New Zealand chief executive Jessica Manins, who previously shared six tips for mastering the art of persuasion — including why business operators shouldn’t shy away from tough conversations.

“Heated discussions around the leadership table were something that I used to shy away from. I would take things too personally, and let my perceptions and emotions get in the way of a robust debate. I would either shut off and stay out of the conversation, or find myself babbling,” she wrote.

“When I started to listen more and talk less, not only did I find the conversations more interesting, but I was also able to formulate my ideas in a more structured way and make clearer points.”

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