Sunday, September 18, 2011

Engineers Making Their Case

One of the issues that was touched on in yesterday's post was the art of persuading as a key social skill.  How can engineers become effective advocates for their positions, products, or projects?  Understanding the skills and techniques of lawyers may be an answer.

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.
The book probably has hundreds of suggestions - - it is a good starting point.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.