Always Avoid the Acute Angle

June 21, 2012

Dale Carnegie knew that the best way to win an argument was to avoid it in the first place.

One night during a dinner he attended in honor of Sir Ross Smith, a man sitting next to him told a humorous story which hinged on the quotation, “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will.”

The man mentioned that the quotation was from the Bible. Carnegie knew, however, that that was wrong—the quotation came from Shakespeare. He tried to correct the storyteller, but the man stuck to his guns. As it happened, the man sitting on the other side of Carnegie was Frank Gammond, an old friend of his who had devoted years to the study of Shakespeare.

Carnegie and the storyteller agreed to submit the question to Mr. Gammond, who listened, kicked Carnegie under the table and said, “Dale, you are wrong. The gentleman is right. It is from the Bible.”

On the way home that night, Carnegie confronted Gammond about his response. “Frank,” he said, “you knew that quotation was from Shakespeare.

“Yes, of course,” replied Gammond. “Hamlet, Act V, Scene 2. But we were guests at a festive occasion, my dear Dale. Why prove to a man he is wrong? Is that going to make him like you? Why not let him save his face? H didn’t ask for your opinion. He didn’t want it. Why argue with him? Always avoid the acute angle.”

Dale Carnegie admitted that he learned an important lesson that night—You can’t win an argument. You can’t because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it because while you’ll feel fine, you’ll have made the other person feel inferior. You’ll have hurt his pride and he will resent your triumph.

Remember … “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

This post is brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Central & Southern New Jersey. We would love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter @CarnegieJersey.

Photo credit: David Castillo Dominici


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