January 4, 2017- Reason/Feelings

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Reason/Feelings

“It is useless to attempt to reason a person out of a thing (s)he was never reasoned into.”

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) Irish satirist, poet, cleric

Imagine yourself trying by rational, logical arguments to change someone’s mind in the following situations: Convincing your father that he is too old to safely drive a car; attempting to convince a friend that same-sex marriage is valid and good; trying to convince your kids to accept an artificial Christmas tree rather than a live one; trying to convince your neighbor that the fence between your properties should come down.

The possibility of success in any of these arguments is not at all likely. Why? They fail, not because your arguments are weak or even wrong, but because you are operating in the wrong realm; you’re not even reaching the people you’re talking to. Why? Read again the above-quoted words of Jonathan Swift. Your father, your friend, your kids, and your neighbor all arrived at their convictions about these issues, not through a rational process but through an emotional one (your father’s whole life-style and personal identity involve driving and going when/where he wants; your friend’s opinion about gay issues is taught by his strongly-felt religion; your family has always had a live tree and the kids like the smell; “That fence has been there for twenty-five years, my father built it,” your neighbor says. They got to where they are by strong feelings, by traditions, by religion, by family―in other words by processes in the emotional realm. That is not to say that their processes were irrational, not at all; they were simply a-rational, that is not in the rational realm.

To have a much better chance of changing their minds? Leave logic and arguments far behind. Jump into the emotional realm, the realm of experience. For example, talk to your father about what it would be like for him to cause the death of a child with his car; invite your friend to get to know gay/lesbian people and those in a same-sex marriage; appeal to and praise your kids’ sense of family tradition; get your neighbor to talk about his father and how the fence first got built… you get the idea. In other words, establish a relationship in the realm of feelings and experience. Now at least you are actually reaching them and have a chance of success.

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January 4, 2017- Reason/Feelings

by David time to read: 6 min
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