September 28, 2011
It’s not that difficult to influence people. All you need is to assemble some facts that support a particular notion and assemble them convincingly using strong clear words.
It turns out, the facts don’t even need to be true.
I’ll give you an example. I was reading my Twitter stream the other day — it was either that or get some work done — when I read an assertion about my home town. The tweeter said that my town used a lot of roundabouts deliberately to keep the undesirables out.
I knew better, but I decided to engage and I responded that I couldn’t think of a single roundabout in our town.
The original tweeter immediately countered with four. This, you see, was a fact based argument.
Except, as I pointed out to him, none of the roundabouts were actually in my town. One was on the border so that half of it was probably in our town but the others were clearly outside of the boundaries – some by more than a mile.
But facts are pesky things. Sometimes they’re true; sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they were once true and no longer are. Sometimes they were true in a particular context that doesn’t apply.
Once I’d pointed out to the tweeter that the facts weren’t, you know, true, I expected him to back off and set the record straight to his followers. Instead, he went on to his next strongly worded assertion.
And that’s what remains. People forget why something is true. They just remember that it is. They just remember that my town has gone to great lengths to keep the undesirables out.
A strongly worded argument outlives the facts it is based on.