Monday, September 10, 2007

Making a Persuasive Argument

Question: Will complaining that someone isn't doing what you want them to do make them any more likely to do what you want them to do?

Not likely. It may make them aware that you have a complaint. But does awareness lead to change? Or does it it just make them more likely to tune you out as just another complainer.

Anyone can make an argument. The guy ranting on the street corner about the government hiding evidence of UFOs is making an argument. An argument that will be laughed off by 99+% of those who pass him by, but an argument none-the-less.

Making an argument is easy. Even more so if the argument consists of, "Listen to me because I'm complaining the loudest!"

But will it change your targets mind? Will it make them come around to your point of view. Will it persuade them to do what you want them to do?

Proposition: If someone doesn't do what you want them to do it is because you haven't made a persuasive enough argument.

Those who don't listen to your argument have decided that the arguments of others are more persuasive than yours.

I'm not saying those arguments are correct. I'm not saying they aren't duped into following them. I'm not saying that they aren't pursuing an ulterior motive by doing what others want instead of what you want. The argument may be stupid. The argument may be insane. The argument may be irrational.

But if it gets people to do what you want then it is persuasive.

You have to make a more persuasive argument if you want people to do what you think they should do.

And no, complaining that people aren't doing what you want is not a persuasive argument.

(Thoughts inspired by weeks of watching people complaining about how Congress isn't doing what all the opinion polls say they should be doing. The point is simple: if they are doing something contrary to what the opinion polls say they should be doing then they must have been given a more persuasive argument. 60+% in the polls isn't persuasive. Complaining that it isn't, isn't either.)


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