The Dandelion Group

Technique of the week

Empty threats

Fear can seriously cloud your judgement. Strip it off.

A stick is effective, or that is at least what the Romans argued. Argumentum ad baculum is the Latin term describing threats, which do not leave you with much of a choice. You certainly encounter them in a robbery but may even use them in discussions at home or work. Even if you are not dealing with actual weapons, be careful. Those who cry wolf lose debates.

How to escape empty threats

  • In case you are being strong-armed, do not take it personally but analyse what provoked it. Ask questions before using the ultima ratio: a counterthreat.

  • If you have to warn of a crisis, consider to start with loaded language instead of scare tactics.

  • No matter if blatant or indirect, look at the anatomy of your argument. Make sure you always have evidence up your sleeve in case someone challenges you.


Find one direct and one indirect argumentum ad baculum used by climate movements.

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Ben Wilhelm