Antonin Scalia and Byran Garners have a book, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges (2008), that outlines a series of ideas that would be useful to engineers. While their book is geared toward persuading judges and juries - - engineers face their own types of judges and juries. From the public at public meetings to project selection committees to project reviews to shareholders - - we are still in the business of persuading. Persuading is a learned skill - - read, observe, practice - - the art of persuading will benefit all engineers.
Several key points in the book include the following:
- Be sure that the tribunal has jurisdiction - - persuasion directed to an inappropriate audience is ineffective.
- Know your audience - - learn as much as you can. Talk to people. Learn with the goal of understanding.
- Know your case - - don't sell something you know zero about.
- Know your adversary's case - - have a good understanding of the arguments on the other side of the fence.
- Never overstate your case - - credibility starts and ends with being scrupulously accurate.
- Occupy the most defensible terrain - - don't assume more of a burden that you must.
- Communicate clearly and concisely - - the power of brevity is not to be underestimated.
- Restrain your emotions - - cultivate a tone of civility.
- Think syllogistically - - all human beings are born with a capacity for logical thought.
- Strengthen your command of written English - - engineers need to understand, "As you read, so will you write." The best way to become a good writer is to become a good reader.
- Value clarity above all other elements of style - - technical jargon should not distract from clarity.
- To clarify abstract concepts, give examples - - examples help people understand what you are talking about.
- Prepare yourself generally as a public speaker - - don't speak fast. Most people can process information only at a moderate rate.
- Have your opener down pat - - commit word to memory.
- Look the judges in the eye - - don't bury you head in notes.