So what is it about persuasion? Are we really able to persuade others? Can we be presented with or present an argument ourselves that can change the course of ours or another’s life?
What is it with our seemingly innate drive to attempt to try to persuade others of our views?
There are some who are addicted to narcotics or fermented or distilled liquids. Others are addicted to chemical reactions that accompany dangerous or extremely challenging exploits or even painful, life-threatening acts of skill or even endurance. Some are addicted to visual stimuli of various kinds, sexual exploits … the list goes on….
Maybe there are far more of us than who are prepared to admit it that are addicted to the rush of persuading others about our own ideas and concepts? … an addiction to a strange kind of “success”?
Or could persuasion be a primitive, basic, deeply rooted drive to stamp our dominance in a social setting?
Could persuasion be a weapon? Maybe just like a cheetah uses speed, a leopard uses stealth, and a lion uses strength, we simply use our most fiercest weapon, our mind? In conjunction with our mind maybe we use that most dangerous weapon of all to run a victim through and bring them down, our tongue.
On the other hand could persuasion possibly be rooted in deep insecurity? …is it perhaps a need to get as many as possible thinking along the same lines as we do so as not to feel personally isolated and in error in our own beliefs? If this is the case perhaps we really are only like dreary, dull, mindless, sheep who have an instinctual drive to blindly follow the herd and the safety we believe it offers us? Could this all be mixed with a cocktail of fear that behind the next bushel there lurks a viscous predator? Or is it perhaps a brilliant and intelligent statistical strategy that the greater the size of the herd, the less the chances of us being picked off as the next meal? Maybe that’s why we so passionately pursue the art of persuading as many as possible to join us – self preservation?
Maybe persuasion is an essential tool for survival. So much of our world is devoted to the act of trying to persuade others to buy something from us that they possibly don’t really need. In order to succeed we trick them into believing that they really do need something and then we persuade them into parting with their resources to get it from us. Could this make persuasion the artful skill of parasitical predators!
Gathering in groups as a result of persuasion may be an apparent possibility in issues of faith and belief, but isn’t it equally true in other less obviously ‘faith’ driven social activities. Perhaps I can suggest fashion, sports clubs and teams, music genre preferences, political party politics, just to name a few. Don’t we just love being ‘right’ or simply just perceived as on the side of the ‘victorious’?
People in groups have their own issues. It doesn’t take much to find trauma and tragedy even loss of life resulting from like-minded groups blindly aligning to ‘group think’ and conformity due to the persuasive nature of a leader or two. Just thinking of how many wars were declared as a result of divergent political views, groups whipped up into frenzied riots, lynch mobs, mass suicides, the crusades, jihad’s, genocides, … I could go on and on ….
Many belief systems have the persuasive sharing of their faith with ‘outsiders’ with the specific intent of gathering converts as central activities for worship and spiritual service. Yet there are many belief systems who do not actively try to persuade others to join their group. These groups believe that their faith is something one is born into and not something one can choose. Some of these are flexible and make space for a few ‘outsiders’ to become proselytes but often these are as a result of intermarriage and the social requirement of conformity to the practices of the faith is very often the driving force.
It would seem to me that the views of these types of belief systems do not have a high regard for individual personal choice as pertaining to their religious orientation. Being born into a Jewish or Islamic family automatically makes the child a member of the faith and the expectation is that compliance is a given, a non-negotiable. The proselyte who joins the faith of that group through marriage could say that they made the decision themselves and even believe so, but did they really? It is very difficult to draw a clear conclusion. Had they not met the partner they desired to marry would they have tried to join the religious order anyway? We believe we can change our core value but could it be convenience and our amazing ability to adapt that is at play here rather than a core value shift?
I suppose a key question might be whether we really can choose for ourselves or not? http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/sheena_iyengar_on_the_art_of_choosing.html
One could possibly argue that the various faiths and belief systems that are based on the “Christian Bible” (and alarmingly there are many) are amongst the most active in evangelising for converts. Yet even in the Christian bible there is an idea set forward that the gift of God is manifested and that those who receive it have the power to become God’s children, but not by natural descent or human decision. The decision maker in this idea is that of God alone. Jesus himself is recorded as saying that no one can come to him unless God the Father draws them.
Core values are very deep. We think we make independent decisions based on our intelligence or acquired wisdom. We believe that we are independent thinkers, sophisticated, educated and informed, deductive, technologically equipped. But are we really?
The dictionary definition of persuasion is: persuade - to induce to undertake a course of action or embrace a point of view by means of argument, reasoning, or entreaty.
So, again I am stumped by a question. What motivates us to try to persuade others? Is it really for their sakes? …. or ours? Is all the effort exerted in this process merely smoke and mirrors? Is it all to confuse and disorientate and by so doing blend into the safety of the herd or even to sneak up and move in like an ace predator?
Can we actually effect a change? …. and if we believe we can, how would we know or measure this change? Yes, it is said that we will be known by our fruits, but fruits are external things and are directly a product of the root and rest of the tree which is far more substantial than the fruit itself. And let’s face it, we are often more adept at changing colour to blend into our environments than chameleons themselves. Even that could be seen as an act of persuasion.
What if core values are really that deep that changing other people’s minds is actually getting them to be dishonest? Possibly even getting them to violate the integrity of their own reality and even plunge them into a cauldron of internal, hypocritical turbulence?
Perhaps we may or may not be able to change peoples minds but we can share the way we see the world with each other. And hopefully in this sincere act of grace it may well happen that deep might call to deep and we could end up being surprised by peace and joy?
How will we ever know unless we go?