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About persuasion

Think about the times that somebody has persuaded you of something – when you’ve changed your views on something.

If I had to put money on it, I’d expect that this person didn’t persuade you by calling you a “f–king idiot” or “scum”.

In the run up to and aftermath of our general election, I’ve seen and heard a lot of people saying things like “Tory scum” or “liberal retards”. I’d contest that this is dehumanising and deeply unproductive. Think about the times that someone has spoken to you in that way – did you change your mind? Probably not. More likely, it made you more entrenched in your beliefs than ever – after all, the opposite voice seems full of vitriol, so why would you hear out their argument fairly?

I don’t believe that there is anything wrong with taking exception to an ideology, political party or social issue; I certainly object to a lot of what is going on in the world today. No-one, however, is going to be persuaded by being screamed at that they are “piece of shit”.

So, by all means, call people out when you think they’re wrong, but doing so in a hateful way will not persuade them, it will only create further entrenchment.

As St Peter advised the early Christians, “… always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15b, emphasis mine). Maybe you’ll have to agree to disagree and maybe even go your separate ways; some ideologies are fundamentally incompatible, but at least you stand a chance of changing someone’s mind. And who knows; perhaps your opposition has a point? Are you bold enough to consider changing your own views if the opposing narrative is persuasive and evidence supports it?

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