Thursday, December 07, 2006

How to Be Persuasive

What Is Persuasion?

Persuasion is the act of getting a sentient being other than yourself to adopt a particular belief or pursue a particular action. This tutorial will teach you how to excel at doing just that. Our examples will assume a variety of different specific circumstances, but the principles we present will be applicable in a myriad of situations. Whether you're trying to persuade a pseudo-intellectual that his political beliefs are, in fact, as savory as unwashed socks, or whether you're trying to persuade a vicious dog to please kindly release your coccyx, the techniques of persuasion you must employ are fundamentally the same.

To be persuasive, you must make use of a number of different tactics. The more you can utilize in conjunction with each other, the more persuasive your argument will be. We will start by isolating and identifying each of the different techniques, and then we'll show how they can be used together in a single compelling argument.

Verbal Techniques
As debating is primarily a verbal undertaking, most of the techniques you will need are verbal in nature. We'll start with those, then look at how you can polish off your style with other types of techniques.

The cornerstone of good persuasive arguing is stubbornness. You must never, under any circumstances, concede that your opponent might ever possibly be right. Openmindedness has led to the downfall of many great debaters. If you find yourself doubting the correctness of your position, don't let it show. Repeat to yourself, "I am right. I am right." If you can't convince yourself that you're right, you'll never convince others that they're wrong. Here is an example of the use of stubbornness in a debate:

· You: "The moon is made of cheese."
· Opponent: "Umm. It's a proven fact that the moon is NOT made of cheese."
· You: "The moon is made of cheese."
· Opponent: "Ok, look, I have a piece of moon ROCK at my house. It is not made of cheese. It is made of ROCK."
· You: "The moon is made of cheese."
· Opponent: "No, it isn't. We've sent ships to the moon. People landed on it. They looked at it. They said it was made of ROCK. They brought back ROCK. It is made out of ROCK."
· You: "The moon is made of cheese."

Strategic Compromise
Compromise would seem to be prohibited by the previous tip about stubbornness,
but it's not, because you should only use compromise as a diversionary tactic. Don't ever compromise your main point. But if you introduce points you don't even care about, then compromise on them later, you can often trick your opponent into conceding. For example:

· You: "We should go out to eat tonight."
· Opponent: "But we ate out last night, and we need to save our money."
· You: "I don't care. We should go out to eat tonight, and then we'll treat ourselves and all of our neighbors to a Broadway play."
· Opponent: "But that would cost a fortune!"
· You: "Yeah, I suppose you're right. Gosh, that would run hundreds of dollars, wouldn't it?"
· Opponent: "Yes, it would."
· You: "Ok, just dinner it is, then."

Big Words
Use of big words is persuasive several times over. They make you look all smart and other people look all stupid; hence, your argument becomes the more compelling. Furthermore, use of big words means you'll talk longer, and usually whoever talks the most is the most convincing. "Wow, look at all he has to say about this," people will say to themselves as they observe you making a protracted argument. "He must know a lot about this subject."
By way of example, compare the persuasiveness of the following two statements:

· "Hockey is better than football."
· "You are the manifest profusion of delusional ideology incarnate if you do not fulminate against the institution of football with great superciliousness and promulgate the preeminence of hockey."

Forgetfulness is a powerful debating tool. You must use this tool wisely, because it can be a devastating weapon in your fight against ignorance. Here is what you should do: in the middle of your argument, forget what you're talking about. This may sound counterproductive, but by forgetting your point you show the person you're debating with that he is so utterly wrong, it's not worth the trouble to follow the course of the conversation. For example:

· You: "Virginia has never produced any good presidents."
· Opponent: "Yes it has. Actually, most of our better presidents came from Virginia."
· You: "But that's exactly what I'm saying...I think...I dunno...I forgot."
· Opponent: "So we agree?"
· You: "Yup. I'm right."

Talk relentlessly, especially when your opponent is also trying to talk. Interrupt constantly. If you never give your opposition a chance to give the other side, you win by default.

· Opponent: "Australia seems like a cool place to visit."
· You: "What? How can you say that? Australia is too hot! You'll die of thirst! And there are diseases and wild dogs--"
· Opponent: "But--"
· You: "--and you can't see the ground because there are so many snakes and spiders, and they are ALL DEADLY. But that's ok, because the jet lag will be so extreme that you'll spend your entire vacation sleeping in the hotel room, which will probably smell and have deadly spiders crawling--"
· Opponent: "No--"
· You: "--around it, and plus everybody talks funny, and they're all CRAZY. Have you SEEN 'The Crocodile Hunter'? The hole in the ozone down there gives them all brain cancer--"
· Opponent: "B--"
· You: "--and they all get tumors which drive them insane!"
· Opponent: "..."
· You: "..."
· Opponent: "..."
· You: "..."
· Opponent: "Well--"
· You: "And furthermore, they're all criminals! Australia is just one big country-sized maximum security prison for thieves and murderers! I can't believe..."

Facts might be the best way to substantiate an argument, but lies are the next best thing. If the facts don't prove your point, make some up.

There are varying degrees of lies. A "fib" is a small exaggeration of the truth. A "hyperbole" is a larger exaggeration of the truth. A "lie" is a statement that has nothing whatsoever to do with the truth. A "big lie" is not only blatantly untrue but will cause your great grandmother to roll over in her grave with shame. The big lie is normally the way to go.

· You: "Dogs are better than cats."
· Opponent: "I prefer cats."
· You: "But cats eat babies! They dig their rabid muzzles into infants' chests and rip their kidneys out!"
· Opponent: "No they don't!"
· You: "They do! And they killed my great grandmother! Twice!"

No persuasive argument would be complete without a little rhyming. Not only does it make you sound clever, but, when used correctly, it can make your opponent sound ignorant. To employ this amazing persuasive tool, you take one of your opponent's points and make up a nonsensical rhyming word to go with it. This tactic has no known refutation.

· You: "There are no people on this planet that do not believe in democracy."
· Opponent: "Yes there are. They're called communists."
· You: "Communists schmommunists!"
· Opponent: "..."

Taunting is a crucial element of a persuasive argument. The purpose of taunting your opponent is to intimidate him into submission.

· You: "Modern art is stupid, and Picasso was a loser."
· Opponent: "I disagree strongly. Picasso was a visionary genius."
· You: "Nyah nyah nyah."
· Opponent: "Er, well, I am entitled to my opinion."
· You: "Bring it on!!"

Random Comments
The interjection of random comments is a useful diversionary tactic. Although the best way to win an argument is for your opponents to concede the debate to you, this last ditch effort can be used in an emergency to secure a secondary victory by disorienting your opponents so much they don't know how to proceed. This tactic has the side benefit of presenting yourself as knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects, so observers are bound to be impressed by your breadth of expertise.

· You: "School lunches suck."
· Opponent: "Despite the taste, school lunches are, in actuality, very nutritional."
· You: "On the contrary! Mahogany is one of Honduras' primary lumber exports."
· Opponent: "Mahogany? Honduras? This has nothing to do with school lunches!"
· You: "Yeah, well, I could beat you at arm wrestling!"
· Opponent: "What does-- But-- You--"

When in doubt, say "clearly." It may not be clear, but your opposition doesn't know that. By offhandedly suggesting that a particular train of thought is obvious to you, you will come across as a daunting force of intelligence difficult to reckon with.

· Opponent: "I don't see how you can say clothing is immoral."
· You: "Clothing was invented as a means of concealing immorality. Anyone wearing clothing is clearly doing so for the same reason."
· Opponent: "No, people wear clothing for a number of reasons. To stay warm, for example."
· You: "Clearly, these reasons are rationalizations made up after the fact."

Subliminal Messages
Subliminal messages are important components of a persuasive argument. Why? Because subliminal messages cannot be argued. If your opponent doesn't know you are suggesting things to his subconscious mind, what possible rebuttal can he have? Convey subliminal messages by whispering under your breath quietly enough so that your opponent does not consciously hear.

· Opponent: "I'm afraid you'll have to come with me."
· You: "These aren't the droids you're looking for."

The Last Word
Above all, you must get the last word. Getting the last word in an argument is terribly important, because it means everyone listening to the argument -- both those involved and those observing -- will leave with the last word as the dominant memory of the debate. If you have the last word, that means your side will be the most remembered. For example:

· You: "Paper does not come from trees."
· Opponent: "Yes it does. My father works in a paper mill. I have personally observed the process by which lumber is processed and turned into paper. These four books I have here describe this procedure in minute detail."

This certainly looks like an argument you've lost, doesn't it? But consider how much stronger a case you make for yourself with this slight modification:

· You: "Paper does not come from trees."
· Opponent: "Yes it does. My father works in a paper mill. I have personally observed the process by which lumber is processed and turned into paper. These four books I have here describe this procedure in minute detail."
· You: "Nuh-uh."

Name Calling
Name calling is an efficient way of pointing out your opponents' weaknesses and call into question the authority with which they dispute your position. By encouraging your opponents to doubt their competence, you can undermine a contrary argument from the inside. For example:

· You: "I believe all short people should be beaten with rocks until they bleed."
· Opponent: "I think that's a very horrible and malicious idea."
· You: "Well, you're fat! Fatty fat doo doo head!"
· Opponent: (sobs)

Yelling is one of the most instinctive and exciting methods of getting your point across. It is also very effective. When you yell, you gain people's respect and awe. The louder you yell, the more respect you incur. When yelling, remember three rules:

1. Be loud loud loud. If you aren't loud, you aren't yelling.
2. Accompany your yelling with eye bulging. The further out of your head your eyes bulge, the more effective the yell.
3. Turn red. Red is a color of power. The redder you get, the more power you have. Observe the logo for this tutorial, at the top of this page. Notice how compelling the 'a' is, because it is red? The other letters are quiescent and relatively nondescript. But you wouldn't want to tangle with that 'a', would you?

Witness the following use of the yelling tactic:
· You: "Canada is a stupid country."
· Opponent: "Canada is a fine country that has made many contributions to the world in the areas of economics, cuisine, and the arts."
· You: "No it isn't!!!! Canada is lame!!!!!"
· Opponent: "That's a totally unsubstantiated opinion."

Swearing is absolutely crucial if you want to convince someone of something. Swearing is a sign of great articulation, vocabulary, and bravado. By swearing, you can demonstrate that you are mature, for you understand mature concepts, and that you are daring enough to thwart the oppression of social convention.

· You: "**** you, man! ****** Canada is a **** ******* *** of a ***** country!!!!"
· Opponent: "Can you tone it down a bit? And Canada is a very important nation."
· You: "***** *** * ***** ******** ******, MAN!!!! ******!!!!"
· Opponent: "Could you please watch your language?"
· You: "Oh, so **** you too, ****, you just go **** ****** *** **** your ***** *** ****** **** ***** **** *******!!!!! **************!!!"

Physical Techniques
Even the most solidly constructed verbal arguments can crumble if your physical stature is not imposing enough to back it up. Here we will discuss how you can use body language to support your arguments.

Flailing Arms
The flailing arms strategy is used to express surprise and to reinforce your arguments. It's very hard to disagree with someone who waves his arms in confidence. For example:

· Opponent: "Water is very important. You need to drink it to survive."
· You: (waving arms wildly) "Water is poisonous!"
· Opponent: "Whatever you say man, just please, don't hurt me!"

Being Tall
Physical stature is an important intimidation tool. Your opponent is more likely to concede an argument if you appear to be bigger than he is. Shortness is associated with children, who are dumb, while tallness is associated with authority figures who know better. Consequently, you should never debate someone at anything less than eye level. If your opponent is sitting, stand. If your opponent is standing, stand taller. Wear thick-soled shoes. Stand on tip-toes. Stand on chairs if you have to.

Another effective gesture you can make that increases the power of your presence is to make a fist with one hand and ominously punch the open palm of your other hand.
Here is an example of how physical intimidation can sway the course of a debate:

· Opponent: (sitting) "I love old movies."
· You: (standing up) "Old movies are all boring and stuffy."
· Opponent: (standing up) "That's just because you have no sense of taste. Modern action flicks have dulled your brain."
· You: (standing on tiptoes) "They're boring, and the acting is bad."
· Opponent: (still standing) "On the contrary, Laurence Olivier, for example, is one of the greatest actors of all time. Um, what are you doing?"
· You: (standing on a chair) "Old movies suck, and Laurence Olivier was a poser." (punches palm)
· Opponent: "Uh. Riiiight." (sits down)

Biting is a last ditch effort. You use this tactic when the other person has been given every opportunity to conform to your opinion and still refuses. It is normally best to go for an important artery or organ. The jugular vein is recommended, as it is located roughly at mouth height.

· You: "I'm right."
· Opponent: "I don't agree. In my opinion, yo--"

Using These Techniques Together
Here is a sample debate that illustrates each of the techniques given above. Notice how, when used in conjunction with one another, you can create an unstoppable argument.

· You: "Our daughter should not be dating."
· Opponent: "Our daughter is mature enough to date, especially if we transport her to and from the restaurant and the movie theater ourselves."
· You: "Our daughter should not be dating."
· Opponent: "She has shown herself to be level-headed, of strong moral character, and very trustworthy."
· You: "Our daughter should not be dating."
· Opponent: "But she's 17 years old!"
· You: "Our daughter should not be dating."
· Opponent: "The guy she wants to date is the boy next door, whom we know is nice and would treat her right."
· You: "Your adjudication is fallible if you do not contraindicate our Y-chromosome deficient offspring commencing to consort with potential inamoratos."
· Opponent: "Huh?"
· You: "Our daughter should not be dating."
· Opponent: "Come now, be reasonable. Don't you see, if we keep her from dating now, what happens next year, when she can date without our permission? She should learn about dating now, while we're here to guide her."
· You: "Well...well.... I tell you, nothing makes me madder than those teachers' unions! They're too powerful! Why, combustion engine emissions are tearing through the ozone layer even as we speak! Oh, what were we just talking about?"
· Opponent: "Our daughter, dating."
· You: "Oh, right. I agree with you. Absolutely out of the question."
· Opponent: "But--"
· Opponent: "Good heavens, what are you talk--"
· You: (waving arms wildly) "CLEARLY HE MAKES THEM EAT LIZARDS!!!!! ******! HE **** AND ***** AND MAKES THEM **** ** **** *****!!!!!"
· Opponent: "Gracious! I have never heard you use such language! What is wrong with you? I can't have a discussion when you're like this."
· You: "Discussion schmiscussion!"
· Opponent: "Calm down. And get off that chair."
· You: "Why don't you make me!? Nyah nyah, can't make me! You're a wimpy dimpy loser!"
· Opponent: (crying) "I don't believe you said that."
· You: "You're right. I'm sorry. I don't really think you're a wimpy dimpy loser, and I'll get down from this chair, as long as our daughter isn't allowed to date."
· Opponent: "Thank you. I didn't quite realize you felt so strongly about it. Why don't we let her date just this once and see how it goes, and then--urk...gurgle--"
· You: "Right, then. No dates."

*Note* I did not write this, I am merely passing it along for it is hilarious and I want you all to be good arguers. I don't know who did write this. That is all.*


Mc said...

Hmmm, I dunno. I've found if you stop the argument before it starts, then you can glory in your victory!!

You: "I think the word 'Dar' is the bestest word in the whole world! Don't say anything if you agree."
Opponent: "..."
You: "Excellent! I'm sure when you wake up you won't remember agreeing, but I still win."


You: "You should never hang out with highschool friends after highschool if you want to be cool."
Opponent: "Please don't cut me."

Justin said...

Once again, Violence has solved everything!

And HEY! You cut my post :(

Justin said...

Also...I never thought I'd get/have to be the one to say this, but...


Becky said...

Long shmong! *flails arms wildly*

It is long, yet entirely worth it! You big complainer you!

And, I think that Mike has come up with excellent alternative forms of persuasion. Kudos to Mike!