The world is just too complex. It’s difficult to understand all the different things that are going on around us. Some people retreat to conspiracy theories to try to make sense of the world. Most of us do something simpler: we create metaphors. A metaphor is simply a way of saying, “the world is like this…” It simplifies the many complexities and makes the world — and our arguments — easier to understand.
But what happens if my metaphor for how the world works is different from your metaphor? If I say that life is like baseball, then I’ll probably tolerate a little deceit in life. After all, the hidden ball trick is acceptable, no? If you say that life is like a court of law, you’ll probably have a much different view of what’s acceptable. We could wind up talking right past each other. Worse, we could get very angry at each other without really understanding why. It’s not an effective communication tool for business or for romance. Learn more in the video.
You go to a department store and buy $300 worth of stuff. To pay for it, you present a general purpose credit card. The clerk tells you that you can save 10% immediately if you apply for a department store credit card. From the clerk’s perspective, it’s a very logical argument — save $30 just by doing a little paper work. Your perspective may be different — it’s one more card to manage, one more bill to pay each month, and so on. If you’re like me, you’ll decline the offer. The long-term hassles outweigh the short-term benefits.
What we have here is a frame-of-reference issue. The clerk’s frame of reference is much narrower than yours. The clerk’s argument is very logical; indeed, it’s airtight. But your frame of reference allows more information in and you decline the offer.
To be persuasive in an argument, your communication skills should include the ability to argue logically within your audience’s frame of reference. To do that, you need to know your audience better than your business or product. Learn more in this week’s video.
People may lash out at you verbally for many different reasons. They’re having a bad day. Their boss unloaded on them. They didn’t get that promotion. They had a fender bender on the way to work. It’s not always about you. Reacting as if it were about you can make a bad situation worse.
It’s a good time to use your listening skills – ask questions. A few simple questions can clarify the situation, allowing you to choose an appropriate response. If it’s really not about you, then a sympathetic response may be much more appropriate than an angry response. Even if your questions don’t clarify the situation, asking them will give you a little time to think and react with wisdom rather than impulse.
What questions should you ask? Watch the video.
Where you stand depends on where you sit. If you sit in the Republican caucus, you’ll judge the logic of a Democratic speaker very stringently. If you sit in the Democratic caucus, you’ll judge the same logic much more leniently. A neutral observer might judge the same logic in a more balanced manner — but is there really such a thing as a “neutral observer”? The truth is that we don’t evaluate logic logically. We trust the logic of those we trust. We don’t trust the logic of those we don’t trust. Trust is central to the art of persuasion. Your logic will be accepted much more readily if your audience trusts you.
Let’s say you’re having an argument and your opponent has stated his position clearly. You’d like to persuade him to change his position. But you’re working against the consistency principle — once your opponent has stated a position, inertia keeps him from changing it. Your argument needs to be clear and compelling but it also needs to provide a way for your opponent to change positions gracefully. While it may be tempting, making your opponent feel small or cornered is usually unsuccessful. Remember, you’re interested in persuading, not humiliating. Similarly, making your argument overly abstract doesn’t do much good. You need to get personal and stay positive. Learn more in the video.
This tip has a lot to do with the consistency principle — and how to overcome it. You can find more on the consistency principle here.