We sat down to dine and continued to exchange a few pleasantries. As I poured myself a second cup of tea, I asked, "Well, Dharma, what lesson do you have for me today?" He was happy to answer that and did so with one of his pearls of froggy wisdom. "Tadpole, a frog who uses force is afraid of reasoning. We've talked about force before. And I've taught you that any kind of force or violence is unacceptable. It begets nothing but more force or more violence. Bullying, online hate, coercion, and force are never the way to settle disagreements. They rarely change anyone's mind." "I get that, Sir," I replied. "But why is reasoning so difficult for some of us to do? Why do some frogs feel that they must resort to using strongarm tactics rather than using reasoning when trying to convince others to see things their way? I suppose it's the same in the human world, too." "It is, my boy. And humans, especially, seem to be hardwired for violence. it's part of their evolution. Humans needed to be strong and brave and ready to take on their enemy at any given moment. back in their earliest days, humans hadn't developed much in the way of reasoning abilities. If they felt they were threatened, they simply picked up the nearest and largest rock and hurled it at their foe. Then they developed clubs, and so on. Man's ability to reason developed eons later. But now that they can use reasoning to solve differences with nonviolence, some still are choosing not to."
I know he's right. I read about human violence all the time in the news. "Dharma," I asked, "if nonviolence works so well, why are humans...and some of us frogs, too, afraid to use it?" "I can't say for sure about everyone, Irwin, but many humans...frogs, too...become so emotional over certain issues that they let their emotion interfere with their logic. Human emotions like anger and fear can be very powerful negative influencers. Emotional humans are far more likely to come out railing against their opponent than someone who is level-headed and has built their argument on solid logic. Humans who are driven by their emotions are afraid of the facts. I think, in large part, because those facts might not support their beliefs. And they cling to these beliefs very tightly. Having passion for a particular issue isn't the same as being emotional. The wise and brave human, Mahatma Gandhi, renounced violence as a means of solving disputes. He advocated for negotiation, mediation, and reconciliation as the best way to settle disagreements, both big and small. Gandhi had passion but was nonviolent."
Using reasoning to solve a disagreement requires time and skill. But it is something each of us is capable of doing. I asked my wise teacher if he had any suggestions on how to use logic and reasoning as a means of persuading others to our point of view. Here are a few of his top tips.
1. Prepare. The key is to think before you speak. What is going to appeal to other people? Who are they? What are their hot buttons? What is the most you can realistically achieve in this conversation? How will you respond when they say X? And so on. Don't just open your mouth and let random words come flying out. Think, formulate your answer, and then speak. it's perfectly okay, even preferable, for there to be a pause in the conversation. it shows you're putting some real thought into your answer.
2. Connect. Find a way to connect with the other person. People are persuaded by people that seem like them. Find some commonality to build on (e.g., background, interests, culture). Express your sameness and not your differences. Build rapport first.
3. Listen. Be quiet and really listen to what the other person says. Pivot (modify your pitch) as needed. Observe body language. Everybody wants to feel heard. Even your opponent. Deep listening is one of the greatest skills any of us can learn.
4. The rule of consistency. Get small concessions or acknowledgments that you can turn into bigger ones. People like to think of themselves as consistent. Get your foot in the door, metaphorically speaking, and then press for more. Start small and work your way up.
5. Use mental shortcuts. Humans do not like long analyses. Give someone an easy way to come to the desired conclusion. The idea is to give your opponent only one or two things to think about. When given too many facts, most humans (and all frogs) tend to "zone out." Their brains shut down. If you've done your homework, then you'll have just one or two key facts that you will use to convince your opponent.
6. Herding. This is a crass term, I think, but it does express the point. You can improve your chances of 'making a sale' (whether it's a product, idea, or point of view) if you show that others are already using it, or thinking it. Humans want to be "one of the gang."
7. Reciprocity. Give and take. Whatever you choose to call it, the exchange cannot be one-sided. Create a sense of obligation. Do something for another and he/she will want to do something for you in return. When it comes to politics (and similar issues) admit to the other person that their side does have some valid points. By doing so, they'll be more willing to accept that your side also makes some valid points.
8. Be patient. Anything worth fighting for, figuratively-speaking, is worth waiting for. If you try to rush things, you may be off-putting. Mirror the other person's tempo. Do not try to accomplish too much too soon. This becomes especially true with big and important issues, like climate change. Just as the old adage says, "Slow and steady wins the race."
If using reasoning is something you're not used to doing, Dharma suggests beginning with something small, perhaps your child's bedtime. And reasoning can and does work with kids, too, so don't be afraid to try out your new skills on them before trying it out on, say, your boss.
Gandhi's vision for a nonviolent world is even more important today than it was during his lifetime. "Nonviolence provides us with tools, the positive means to oppose and stop wars and preparations for war, to resist violence, to struggle against racial, sexual and economic oppression and discrimination and to seek social justice and genuine democracy for people throughout the world. Nonviolence is the leaven for the bread that is a new society freed from oppression and bloodshed, a world in which persons can fulfill their potentials to the fullest."
As always, Dharma's lesson today was both interesting and fascinating. I do hope that you'll join me here again tomorrow for National Mulligan Day. It's not just for golf. Until we meet up again, I wish you a beautiful Wednesday.