Obviousness Hinders Your Persuasion Ability

Last weekend I spent one full day at a liberal event / conference and one full day at a conservative event / conference. They were unrelated but happened to be on consecutive days. It was fascinating to get inside the heads of people who are leading the political movements on both ends of the spectrum.

The line of the weekend came at the conservative event, where one person said: "Organized and wrong beats unorganized and right, election after election." Translation: We may have the better ideas, but if we don’t organize ourselves we’re still going to lose.

It sparked a somewhat related idea. Sometimes we get so enamored with our ideas — so convinced of their moral goodness! — that we forget about actually trying to convince those who do not just "get it".

The more obvious something is to you, the worse a persuader you are to the uninitiated. Because of its obviousness to you, the harder it is to really truly actually understand how someone arrives at the idea through deliberation versus common sense snap judgment.

Assuming you seek to convert skeptics, the best evangelists, then, are not necessarily the most passionate believers in the cause / product, but rather those who took some convincing in order to see it your way.

In other words, an environmental organization that seeks to engage new, uninvolved people in their movement should hire someone who used to be an uninvolved person. Someone who needed to be persuaded, as then they can employ the same logic unto others. Yet I’m guessing most environmental organizations are headed by life-long tree huggers, who probably have a hard time seeing the world any other way.

4 Responses to Obviousness Hinders Your Persuasion Ability

  1. Chris Yeh says:

    Precisely, Ben. Studies show that we find converts more convincing than the pure idealists:

    link to insideinfluence.com

    Here’s a related thought:
    If you seek to persuade, don’t assume that you should focus on the oratory that is most convincing or pleasurable for you. Always focus on what the audience wants to hear.

    I’m sure that the average soapbox shouter is feelin’ pretty good mid-rant, but that doesn’t mean that anyone is actually listening.

  2. Jude says:

    You lost me at “really truly actually”–wow, three meaningless adjectives in a row.

  3. I was at an environmentally oriented social event last night. One of the older attendees noted a certain self-righteousness in the pitches of some environmental causes.

    It was as if they were pitching some sort of anointment to those who’d get involved. As in, donate X amount to save the Amazonian rainforest, and you’ll feel so much better about yourself and be seen by others as virtuous.

    Seems like this pitch works best for those seeking anointment, but does nothing to motivate those who aren’t.

  4. kai chang says:

    The topic of personal gun ownership is one that definitely inspires a lot of vociferous opinions. Piazza, creator of the tactical shooting facility FrontSight offers for celebrities and opinion leaders who may hold negative views on private gun ownership but have no firsthand experience with them, to give them a chance to learn firsthand.

    Or taking a fellow blogger to go shooting. :)

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