2014-03-18

On Being Convincing

Spend enough time trying to convince people of your point of view, and you'll eventually reach a point of diminishing marginal personal satisfaction with these sorts of conversations. It's easy to just give up, disengage, and go back to playing Simcity or something.

Anecdotally, however, I can attest to the fact that I have been able to bring people over to my point of view from time to time. Having thought carefully about these situations, I can discern no predictable pattern from how it worked.

In some cases, I managed to be persuasive while being rude and highly flippant. From this, we could possibly reason that the embarrassment of another person's holding a wrong opinion was too much to bear, and they were made to reconsider their case. But in other instances - some involving the same people who were convinced on other issues - the tactic failed miserably. Those cases, taken in isolation, would be reason to convince us to remain as open and charitable - as "kind" - as possible. The contraction doesn't end there, of course. I've managed to convince people by being as kind as possible, and I've also failed accordingly.

Sometimes it pays to appeal to reason, empirical evidence, and logic. Other times, that is a distraction from what the audience deems to be a moral issue. Yet, attempt to speak to them of morals, and they will cite their own countervailing empirical evidence and logic. Once again, the tactic and its opposite both appear to work and to fail, sometimes for the same person or audience, with no discernible pattern emerging.

Zoom way out, though, and there is one thing that does not change over the course of the entire analysis: Consistency.

That is, it seems that the best way to bring others around to your point of view is to remain honest, consistent, and genuine about your personal beliefs. If you're on the right side of the issue, remain unwaveringly true to it, and have confidence that people will come around eventually.

At least, that's my conclusion. What's yours?