“A person convinced against their will, is of their own opinion still.” The variations of this quote are many, as are the attributions to whose it is (Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Johnson, or Sir Walter Raleigh).
Front-of-mind knowledge of the above truth can save us a lot of heartache.
Still, we will go through our lives destined to try and convince people of truths we hold dear, only to have them rejected, point blank. Notwithstanding the hurt and frustration we experience because of this, we should now know how it feels to be ‘persuaded’ against the flow of our will. None of us like it.
There are only two situations, generally, where persuasion will work within the realm of possible sustainability.
1. When We Are in a Position of Authority
Although it is not a perfect situation by any means, being in a position of authority or control—with the comprehensive sanction of those controlling the entire nest—helps so far as persuasion is concerned, provided we have the confidence and ability to assert ourselves.
We will be in a position to institute discipline, or tough love, where it’s needed. Such persuasion necessarily enlists fairness, for no one bows to tough love easily when there’s rampant injustice.
Given that most of us don’t have such power or authority, the only sustainable option of persuasion open to us is through a softer loving influence than tough love.
2. The ‘Love Never Fails’ Approach
Why would we want to convince someone against their will when there’s no love in it? Just because they don’t believe our truth doesn’t mean they are wrong. They have a different standpoint; a different logos, pathos, and ethos.
In other words, we typically believe what we know (logos), what ideas we like or are attracted to (pathos), and, the ideas held by the people we like (ethos).
So much for the truth; we are actually handcuffed to nuances of the truth just as much as they are.
In such situations—where neither we nor they adhere always to the truth—there’s only one universal method of common respect. That is that we love people, as unconditionally as possible, such that they might become convinced of ‘the truth’ (whatever it is) themselves. In that is faith.
Love really is the only persuader that has any chance of working. Whether it’s the agency is tough love, or the more facilitative softer love—influence is a tricky art.
The mode of love in persuasion is charismatically patient. It doesn’t beat its head against the brick wall; instead it gently accepts what it cannot change. Longer term it’s the most powerful source of influence because it respects the other person fully.
Given the fact that people will believe us more if they like us gives us the strongest clue—love’s the only way.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.