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Tuesday, May 3, 2016
An Exercise In Persuasion
by Darlene Jones
Darlene has been an avid fan of my blog for years. She wrote this
original piece for your eyes only. For more information, please consult: www.darlenejonesauthor.com
I debate with friends and family over differing political views, I always feel
amazed at how difficult it is for me to persuade them over something that seems
deeply obvious to me. I grow incredulous over their stupidity, ignorance,
or nerve to take the opposing position, one that seems riddled with errors and
prejudice. But if their argument seems so blatantly weak or wrong, why
can’t I convince them to see the light?”
What should it take to sway
*Passion and emotion
*Facts and statistics
*Slogans and catchy phrases
*Good intentions and strong
problem is, the opposing side will come back at you with the same thing.
you end up just shouting at each other, restating, if not repeating, your best
statements, and growing frustrated with every passing moment.”
Brian’s comments brought to mind a class I
took many years ago. The professor, Dr. Chevrolet, from France, facilitated
international negotiations in Europe on numerous issues. This was high level
One day, he asked us to think of something we
felt passionate about and plan a speech to convince a skeptical audience that
our way was the only way.
This will be easy, I thought smugly, as I
began writing. I’d convince everyone of the importance of sex education in secondary
schools. I believed wholeheartedly then (and still do) that the Sex Education
course I taught was one of the most important things I did with my grade nine classes.
Why? I wrote furiously.
need to be armed with information to protect themselves.
have too much information from unreliable sources.
are raging and kids won’t leave the topic alone just because you don’t talk
the kids are already having sex.
teach your kids street safety. Sex education is no different
and kids don’t see each other as sexual beings so it’s easier for a neutral
third party to be the sex educator.
virtually impossible to talk to your own kids about sex.
Armed with my list, I waited for Dr.
Chevrolet to ask us to present.
That was when he threw an unfair curve ball.
“Now, I want you to take each of your arguments and use them to convince your
audience the exact opposite of your original point of view.”
I shook my head. What he was asking of us
just wasn’t possible. We argued, but he insisted. I cringed as I took my notes
and tried valiantly to reverse them. When he asked for a volunteer to start, I
offered to go first. Might as well get the misery over with.
As I began speaking, I found myself becoming
passionate about what I was saying. “Imagine your child sitting listening to a
teacher talk about something as private and intimate as sex. Imagine your baby
exposed to ideas you don’t agree with and what if the person isn’t well
As I spoke, I felt the heat rise in my chest
along with the pitch of my voice. I was hot and bothered and became more and
more strident as I argued against something I held dear.
If I could reverse my position with that much
passion and emotion, why is it that others can’t see possibilities beyond their
own point of view? As Brian says, “Why
can’t they see what seems obvious to me?”
Short of putting everyone through Dr.
Chevrolet’s exercise—multiple times, I don’t think there is an answer to Brian’s
question. We all come in to our discussions with our long-held beliefs, our
subconscious determinations of how life should be, and our selfishness that
tells us we have to be “right.”
And, dismal thought, if that is the case, our
lives and our world will always be filled with conflict.