OSD 101: How to talk to people who won’t listen
We know a thing or two, because we’ve seen a thing or two.
We’ve been doing this for about two years now. So we’re new enough to still be learning and tweaking things all the time. But when it comes to tone, to be honest we haven’t tweaked a thing. Instead, we’ve just seen one of our foundational ideas validated over and over again: persuasion beats debate every time.
Those sound like the same thing; don’t you persuade people through debate? Well, that’s an empirical question. Think about it. Do you persuade people through debate? When was the last time you debated somebody into changing their mind about something they feel strongly about? When was the last time you’ve seen that happen? When was the last time you’ve even heard about it?
Persuasion can include debate, but more generally it refers to the entire set of tools for getting someone to change their mind. And usually it means laying the groundwork for them to choose to come over to you.
People often have strong ideas about guns, which get in the way as you lay that groundwork. There are tonal strategies that are crucial if you’re going to successfully navigate that. Some of those strategies, we’ve written about. Others we’ve kept close to the vest. Others we haven’t been able to articulate or may not even know about.
But you can forget all of that, because the video below comes as close as anything we’ve seen to a One True Framework™ for bringing people into the fold on gun rights (ignore the particular folks in the thumbnail, the video takes no sides and is alternately complimentary and critical of various people’s techniques):
The “I’m talking with someone who won’t listen” feeling is something you will feel constantly if you’re talking to the public about gun rights. Your interlocutors will often have an impressive combination of cognitive dissonance, ignorance of basic facts, strong emotions, and massive popularity. That’s ok. It’s how things are, and we have to learn to be effective anyway. If you let it bother you, you’re toast.
The video identifies seven tells of cognitive dissonance — signs that the person you’re talking with is working through their own internal conflict and therefore not going to hear what you’re saying:
Being stunned by new information and then not adjusting their perspective
Inaccurately summarizing the other side’s perspective
Assuming nefarious intent
Regularly moving the goalposts
Yelling or getting angry — especially self-righteous anger
Attacking a person’s character instead of their argument
Retreating from or dropping a point, but without conceding it
Sound familiar? If you follow interviews with gun control orgs, you’ll see all of these, often all in the same interview. But here’s the thing: if you’re really honest with yourself, how often do you see them in yourself? We fall into the same traps sometimes too. That’s the thing to work on. Every time you have an opportunity to fall into one of these traps and you put in the effort not to, that’s a new bit of skill you’ve built — an extra bit of muscle that you now have and that other people don’t. These aren’t wishy-washy maxims, they are technical skills. And like any skills, training them to an elite level makes you more effective in the relevant domains than other people are.
When you notice any of the seven tells in your interlocutor, the video points out three critical strategies to open up the space for them to resolve their cognitive dissonance positively, instead of doubling down on it:
Demonstrate no superiority if they come to your side. No I-told-you-sos, no smugness, and often not even an acknowledgement that they switched positions. Drawing attention to it is an ego blow, and can cause them to revert to their prior position. Don’t be a sore winner.
Do not force people to immediately live out their new values. Newbies ramp in to their new views, and that transition period will include some inconsistencies. That’s normal. Let it be.
Do not hold past inconsistencies against people. From the video: “People have a strong desire to defend things they’ve said and done in the past. So when you bring up those inconsistencies, it can drive them to abandon the new belief that they’re trying out, just so that they can remain consistent with their past selves.”
These things all sound simple, and pretty uncontroversial. But almost nobody consistently lives them out. Anyone who’s incrementally better at it has an unfair advantage in persuasion. Do you want an unfair advantage? We sure do.
This week’s links
“First time at a firing range (I live in South Korea) and the video doesn't show the part where I cry in happiness.”
Once a month or so, it’s worth scanning for new videos of people going shooting for the first time. Here’s the thing: guns are super fun! When people know about guns, they overwhelmingly tend to be cool with them. So the only way to make people not at-worst-meh-and-often-actually-pretty-positive about guns is to prevent them from learning. Videos like this are a good reminder that there is an unstoppable human tendency to respond to suppression in exactly the way you’d hope: by finding ways around it.
It’s the first time these things have been available to regular folks (well, to the subset of regular folks who can spare $41,000 for night vision goggles) without resorting to gray market shenanigans.
It’s not, however, the first time that quad-tube NVGs have been available. A different model has been available via KommandoStore for a little while, at a comparatively thrifty $13,500.
None of this is immediately relevant to most people, of course. But technology prices drop at faster-than-linear rates once they start being exposed to the consumer market. And this is step 1 of that exposure. It’ll be interesting to see what NVG prices look like in five years.
An episode of T.Rex Talk about the pros and cons.
“Man stole tow truck, then called 911 to complain because victim pulled a gun on him, prosecutors say”
Massad Ayoob counsels that the first person to call 911 is the one who tends to establish the narrative. The suspect here might have over-applied that advice.
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