[T]he art of persuasion is really an art. And the least effective way to persuade people is to get in their face and wag your finger at ’em. That’s automatic resistance.
You also can’t persuade people if you come across like parent. You know so much more and you dumb idiot, I’m trying to help you, you’re nothing more than a child, and I’m trying to show you the way. That doesn’t work. I mean, sometimes it does. All these things work in certain ways, but they’re not the most effective art of persuasion. The art of persuasion is not bludgeoning. You can use consistent repetition, but in that case the person has to be open to it and willing, and that’s where the whole phrase “you can’t wake ’em up if they’re pretending to be asleep,” they’re already awake. So the real effective persuasion is that which makes the persuadee think that they are coming to the conclusion you want on their own.
Everybody wants to think that they’re smart, everybody wants to think that they are perceptive, and nobody likes being told that they aren’t. That’s humiliation. Nobody likes being told that they’re not sly. Nobody likes being told that they missed the obvious. They’re gonna build up a resistance, and they’re gonna be hell-bent on resisting you. Just for the sake of it. They will not want you to have the enjoyment or the pleasure of realizing that you changed their mind. So the most effective way of doing it — or one of the most, it’s hard to say the most, the most effective way of doing it is, in conversation with people, set up a series of circumstances to which the conclusion is obvious, that you don’t have to make it. You do this with a series of questions, most of the time, to which the conclusion is obvious, and they think they arrived at it on their own.
If that happens, then there might honestly be a conversion. If you just have to drill something into people over and over again, time and time again, the odds are it won’t stick. It won’t take. Now, to people who realize that there are people smarter than they are, that’s not enough. You have to be respected at the same time, not resented. And there’s a lot of people who realize that people are smarter than them resent the people who are smarter and automatically resist or oppose. So it really is, I think, a delicate thing on a individual basis to set out to persuade people.
Rush mentioned the above conversation the next day:
Late in the program yesterday we had a little discussion on the art of persuasion, which, by the way, I got a lot of feedback on. The most response I got was when I said that the power persuasion — I’ve made this point a number of times over the years, but the least effective way is to get in somebody’s face and just wag your finger at ’em and then try to overpower them. It’s the least effective way. So the most effective way is to establish set of circumstances to which the conclusion is obvious and lead the intended persuade in that direction.
I said you do that with a series of questions that they answer, and the ultimate question they get, they convince themselves. They never admit that you persuaded them, and if you’re in it for that reason, you’re never gonna be satisfied.