2007 - 2022

Effective Language for Persuading People

Some wise words here from Audrey Birt on Effective Language for Persuading People.

It will be interesting to hear how the fringes of the indy movement who either denounce the SIC or advocate ‘just shouting louder’ as a strategy respond when they watch and listen to this?

A repeated mantra I’ve heard over and over goes something like this: we did nothing wrong and so there’s no need to revise or reflect on anything for indyref 2; persuading people or thinking about how we communicate is a form of traitordom. Added to these is often: it was all the BBC’s fault.


Comments (5)

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  1. Jim Hagart says:

    This approach is fine provided people are open to persuasion i.e. they access relevant media and are open to discussion with other people. It is rather pointless if they are not. I am reasonably certain that many of those who need to be persuaded of the benefits of an independent Scotland do not fit into these categories. They need to see media that presents an ‘alternative’ reality to the one they are constantly exposed to i.e. unionist printed and electronic media. Face to face, they will simply turn their back and see whatever is presented to them as biased. They need to perceive that they are ‘in a minority’ and that their beliefs no longer hold true. Again, only a media that represents Independence could do that and it doesn’t exist. As there is only limited printed and electronic media supporting Indy the only means of changing their minds is facing them with events (meetings, dances, open discussion, processions, DVDs, etc) that challenge their mind set and show that they are in the minority. In essence, people like to conform; conservative minded individuals DON’T conform to minorities. So every YES group needs to get active and show that they know that they are the future (without putting too fine a definition on that term; it obviously will differ from group to group).

  2. Piotr says:

    Thank you very much for posting this.
    I was hoping this would be made available.
    It was an excellent talk.
    There is a great deal to digest and put into practice here.

    1. Thanks – yes – some simple truths here but ignored by too many.

  3. SleepingDog says:

    I think there’s a lot of good sense in that talk, for example the stories you tell have to match the behaviour you exhibit if you want to persuade (although technically this runs into the problem of public virtue and private vice: hypocrisy and cant).

    On the loaded question of persuasion, I would suggest that if you were treating others as equals, you should also be open to be persuaded by them, otherwise it is one-way zealotry. But I see her point about approaching people at the right time, when they are contemplating an issue, have time and space and questions of their own.

    On the subject of discussion techniques, you can listen and listen and the other person may not reveal what is really on their mind, or what their deeper beliefs, confusions, prejudices, linkages or concerns are. There is a question-based method often called elenchos:

    which is used (not just in philosophy seminars) to draw out these deeper or reluctant thoughts in an engaging rather than interrogatory way, where they can be examined; and new ideas, examples or connections applied.

    Similarly, if your discussion partner will stand it, you can use the method favoured by Japanese engineering masters and small children alike: the 5 Whys:

    So, learning to ask the right questions (to the right person in the right circumstances based dynamically on what they are saying, so listening is still the component of longest duration) is the required skillset, I’d argue. What happens when two people use these techniques against each other is, generally, interesting.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      I’ll give a real-life example of the elenchos method relevant to Scottish Independence that was touched on in the talk above.

      If you are talking with someone defending nuclear weapons, try steering the conversation with questions about who should, and who should not, be entrusted with them, and why, and by what criteria that persons divides the world into those camps. Polite persistence may be revealing of underlying beliefs.

      The classic moment (and often the whole point) is when one person realises the implications of their own stated position in a new light, or fully for the first time, or makes a previously unimagined connection or comparison. Typically they may (re)state this revelation with surprise or sometimes discomfort.

      See the questioning technique that Jonn Pilger applied to Alan Clark revealing the latter’s valuing animal life more highly than human:

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