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

“Whenever 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 another?
*Passion and emotion
*Facts and statistics
*Slogans and catchy phrases
*Good intentions and strong ideas

The problem is, the opposing side will come back at you with the same thing.

Then 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 stuff.

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.

·         Kids need to be armed with information to protect themselves.
·         Kids have too much information from unreliable sources.
·         Hormones are raging and kids won’t leave the topic alone just because you don’t talk about it.
·         Some of the kids are already having sex.
·         You teach your kids street safety. Sex education is no different
·         Parents and kids don’t see each other as sexual beings so it’s easier for a neutral third party to be the sex educator.
·         It’s virtually impossible to talk to your own kids about sex.
·         Etc. etc. etc.

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 informed, and….

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.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

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