Politics, Discuss It or Drop It

Politics, Discuss It or Drop It

As the political campaign season continues, remember that sarcasm, name calling, insults, and making fun of others’ candidates or beliefs do not persuade those who disagree with you to change their minds. Rather, these “wrong making” messages only cause them to resist more, to dig their heels in deeper.[1]

Canned snippets you are urged to share on social media often do just that, increase resistance to your message by those who currently disagree.

Why, then do organizations ask you to sign a petition or sign your name to ” stand with” a particular candidate, then, ask you to share a snippet on social media? As always, it boils down to their interests.

Persuading your Facebook friends to change beliefs contrary to those of the organization is low on the organization’s list of interests. High on their list is the interest of getting donations from those who already agree with their positions or candidates.

Publicly taking a position makes it unbelievably hard for a person to turn down a request for donation.[2] So, when you sign the petition or “stand with” whomever, you are set up to agree to donate.

Whether or not you donate, when you share the snippet on Facebook, those of your friends who already agree with the organization are more likely to sign the petition, and then, to donate to the organization as well.

Perhaps the organization uses these donations to fund projects you wish to support, such as to run advertisements that might influence the undecided and the middle-grounders or to lobby office holders. Then, by all means, donate.

But when they urge you to share something on Facebook, step back and ask yourself whether or not you have an interest in doing that, and if so, what that interest is.

Do you have an interest in persuading those Facebook friends who disagree with your positions or your candidates to reconsider? If so, it is counterproductive to share canned wrong-making snippets with them on social media.

The best way to influence someone to reconsider a position is to have a real conversation with the person, a conversation in which you listen to understand, not to respond. When you believe you understand, paraphrase what it is you think you understand and invite the other person to correct you if you haven’t got it straight. If there are things they said that you do agree with, tell them so. Only then, introduce your opinion in a respectful, non-wrong-making, matter-of-fact way.

If that’s too much trouble, or too scary, then just give it up because, if you share that snippet with friends who hold different opinions from yourself, you will accomplish nothing except to drive them deeper into their current beliefs.

[1] For more on why, see Chapter 4 of Bridges to Consensus

[2] See Influence the Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

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