Brain power

To persuade, think like the person you want to convince

The always pithy Seth Godin makes the point that many people prefer to argue from the standpoint of their own beliefs, and not by taking the viewpoint of the person they are trying to convince:

To many people, it feels manipulative or insincere or even morally wrong to momentarily take the other person’s point of view when trying to advance an argument that we already believe in.

And that’s one reason why so many people claim to not like engaging in marketing. Marketing is the empathetic act of telling a story that works, that’s true for the person hearing it, that stands up to scrutiny (emphasis added).

The question, morally, is whether truth matters. But philosophically, truth is a slippery concept anyway. Ultimately, both intellect and experience are fallible and there’s no fundamentally good reason for someone else to trust our intellect or experience as “more true” than theirs (except for arrogance on our part).

Seth is actually espousing an approach very compatible to the philosophy of critical rationalism. Critical rationalism ceases to worry about “truth”, instead using criticisms of proposed knowledge/truths on the basis of values and logic. Thinking as a critical rationalist encourages a profound empathy with others since criticisms are utilitarian, not moral.

From a persuasion perspective, it’s ultimately irrelevant which critical approaches a person chooses to take; only understanding what they are and whether they would lead to a common understanding of desirable outcomes or not.

Stephen Bounds

Stephen Bounds is an Information and Knowledge Management Specialist with a wide range of experience across the government and private sectors. As founding editor of RealKM and Executive, Information Management at Cordelta, Stephen provides clear strategic thinking along with a hands-on approach to help organisations successfully develop and implement modern information systems.

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