Winning People Over

Joe has some good advice:

Some of the other commenter’s reminded me of a Libertarian essay or pamphlet I read 10 or 15 years ago. The author pointed out that hard-core Libertarians sometimes have the nasty habit of pushing until they find a point they on which they disagree with someone they are proselyting to. For example, they might find someone agrees that the war on some drugs cannot be won and is more harmful to society than the drugs themselves would be if legalized and taxed like other recreational drugs such as cigarettes and alcohol. The hard-core Libertarian would not try and “cement” that agreement but would go on to some other issue such as elimination of government schools or something. And then “hammer” on the potential new recruit if they disagreed.

This is not the way you recruit people to your cause. When someone sees a glimmer of the light you have been trying to demonstrate you should encourage them. You don’t tell them they are a blind idiot because they can’t see the entire spectrum of ultra-violet, infra-red, and X-ray, beauty to find in so many ways that you know and love. If you are right your viewpoint will grow better through careful nurturing than through pushing more and more new material down their throat until they start gagging.

It can be a long process. Good dialog usually is.

5 thoughts on “Winning People Over”

  1. Yep, coach them into assessing their own beliefs to find points of principled agreement with you and then gently reinforce that gain.

    Change is hard for most folks, it takes a bit for “reason” to replace emotion or unjustified “belief”. If you immediately push too hard in follow up and turn them off they may reject what common ground you so painfully found simply because they don’t want to agree with a jerk, even if he or she is “right”.

    Once you get them agreeing on a topic, hit them maybe with a bug in the ear of the principle behind the particular position and let it fester. There will be time to stir it to life next time you talk about a different topic based on the same reasoning. They don’t call it the “art of persuasion” for nothing.

    Turn the heat up slowly and you will have yourself a nicely cooked frog… on your side… wrong analogy. ;)

  2. The drive for ideological purity seems to get stronger the further you get to both ends of the spectrum. Might just be an inseperable aspect of whatever mental process leads one to those fringes.

    Someone should do a research paper. A real one, Josh, not just Google.

  3. “Well since you agree I’M RIGHT about ‘this’ then you agree you’re wrong about EVERYTHING ELSE right!?”

    The above attitude is why it is so hard to have a good debate any more.

  4. Yup. Incrementalism is the most important tool we have, and being right alone just isn’t good enough.

    I have a British friend who, a couple years ago, was strongly anti-gun. He was on board with self defense in principle (a martial artist, actually), but couldn’t accept guns for cultural reasons. After finding out he was really into the 19th century British Empire, selling him on antique bolt-action rifles was fairly easy (they’re historical artifacts; what criminal would use a hundred-year-old bolter?). Now he’s seriously considering jumping through the hoops to take posession of his grandfather’s SMLE, still in the family since the end of WWI. But he still had serious misgivings about handguns, totemic representations of mayhem as they are to so many Brits.

    So I pointed out the Beaumont-Adams revolver. After all, what criminal would tolerate a gun that you have to load with loose powder and ball? Sure, maybe _those_ handguns are symbols of violence, but _this_ handgun represents the well-ordered Victorian mind preparing itself to defend against the violence of the world…

    He hates me a bit more now, but I suspect he’s also looked into British blackpowder pistol laws. ;)

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