I spend a large part of my time trying to convince people that my ideas have merit. Most of the time, I can simply illustrate the differences between one idea and another and have them immediately distinguished–one is right, and one is wrong. There are, however, a few situations where that is not the case.
I have come to a few questions in response to those situations: Am I not a persuasive person? Are the arguments wrong, and I don’t know it? Am I not talking about them the right way? I’d like to explore a few of these situations in this post.
I have generally thought that I am a persuasive person. I don’t always have a lot of people listening to me, but I like to think that when they are, I can persuade them that I’m generally right. I have heard good things about my public speeches, and a few people have enjoyed talking to me on a smaller scale.
At the same time, several people I know have pointed out that I can be less than sensitive when it comes to serious discussions. This is true, because often when it comes to actually talking about a decision someone has to make, I try to immediately remove the question of emotion and bias, to better serve the pursuit of truth and reason. Admittedly, it doesn’t usually make people feel good, but generally I wind up persuading them anyway. Unless, of course, I am actually wrong–but that brings us to the next option.
When I am wrong, I feel that often, the people who notice it are hesitant to tell me. I’ve found that our society has gotten too attached to positive feedback to actually give useful advice–which is why I generally don’t try to sugar-coat it, when I find someone is doing something wrong.
So, when I find that people actually think I am wrong, the first thing I try to do is find out why. My biggest problem with the Free Software and religion arguments has been that people cannot tell me why I’m wrong–or at least, can’t do so in a way that holds up to any amount of serious thought. At that point, the rational course of action for the other person in the conversation would be to evaluate what led them down that path that didn’t hold up to serious thought, and then consider a change in opinion. Of course, in most cases, I do not see that happen.
In most cases, the people I know actually look me straight in the face and ask me to agree to disagree. This moment brings a lot of thoughts to mind, most notably “so, you’re asking me to agree that you’re wrong and too stupid to realize it?”, but at this point in the conversation, my penchant for not sugar-coating things somewhat disappears. In some cases, in later conversations with the same person, that principle returns to the mix, but I generally recognize that person, at that point, as a lost cause. They have lost their capacity for reasoned discourse and are no longer even capable of change. This is possibly the most worrying trend of all–that people are no longer interested in or capable of change.
Possibly one of the most frustrating examples of the above, I think, is that even if I am not persuasive, or talking about something in a manner which does not endear me to the other participants in the discussion, I often find that people will either not tell me, or will try to tell me without having any concrete examples of how I could improve. Even those closest to me have been very unhelpful in this matter. Really, though, I take that as so much more evidence that I’m not, in fact, using any methods that are too offensive. How can I be, if no-one can even enumerate those methods to me?
Thanks for reading!