Sunday, June 13, 2010

Convince Me

Emerson said somewhere, “Arguments convince no one.” Because they are presented as arguments, not as reasons to change one’s beliefs or opinions, I suppose.

This got me wondering. What changes a person’s beliefs or opinions?

The only thing I could think of, the only times I’ve been truly convinced to change my stance on any particular subject, is by example. Lived and living example. That’s what changes hearts and minds.

How could this work?

First off, we should realize the difference between venting and convincing. A lot of political discourse, perhaps as much as ninety percent, I’d venture to say, is venting. Venting involves a whole slew of elements, such as mischaracterization, name-calling, exaggeration, and various crows of self-superiority of intellectual or emotional natures.

That does not interest me.

One of the examples I’m thinking of, first and foremost, is Jesus Christ. Reading His life story in the gospels for the first time on my own, that springtide of 1992, changed me. Fundamentally changed me. Currently, the examples of some fine men in the Catholic Church are cementing that change.

But it does not have to be entirely big-picture, this “example over argument” angle of the art of persuasion. It can work in politics, too. The very next example I thought of is Lincoln. Now, I’m no expert on the sixteenth president, and I know that there are huge chunks of mythology built up around him. In reality he did do some legitimately ambivalent things. But one phrase associated to him has always stuck with me:

If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.

Then I remembered those Dale Carnegie books I read a thousand years ago. If you want to make a friend:

Never criticize, condemn, or complain.

The basic strength to any attempt at convincing has to be the strength of the cause you are promoting. You must take your egotistical self out of it, you must take your objectified listener out of it, and like a proud yet nervous parent watching his child toddle on two shaky legs the first time, you must leave the idea to do battle in your listener’s mind.

That’s the only way.


Did I make any sense here?

I’m not sure I did … maybe I need to think out this whole darn subject a little bit more.

No comments: