THURSDAY, MARCH 4, 2021
...Dolly Parton shows one way it's done: We don't love the headlines on Nicholas Kristof's new column. The headlines in question say this:
How to Reach People Who Are Wrong
In the post-Trump era, research suggests the best ways to win people over.
In this column, Kristof comes down on the side of persuasion. We urges us liberals to get off our tribal high horse and learn how to "win people over."
That said, "How to reach people who are wrong?" According to major experts, the best way to win people over is to stop insisting that they have to tell you that they were "wrong."
We don't love Kristof's headlines, but we agree with his overall point. Still, he panders to us in Our Town just a bit. This is the way he begins:
KRISTOF (3/4/21): The Trump years were a time of high passion, of moral certainty, of drawing lines in the sand, of despair at the ethical and intellectual vacuity of political foes. But now it’s time to recalibrate.
From my liberal point of view, Democrats were largely vindicated. From the Muslim ban to the separation of families at the border, from the mishandling of the pandemic to the Capitol insurrection, Democrats’ warnings aged well. Yet one of the perils in life is being proven right.
The risk is excessive admiration for one’s own brilliance, preening at one’s own righteousness, and inordinate scorn for the jerks on the other side.
It isn't hard to be "proven right" when Donald J. Trump is the opposite standard. To his credit, Kristof warns about our tribe's excessive self-admiration—but only after feeding that familiar old bugbear a bit.
"I wonder if we liberals, having helped to preserve American democracy over the last four years, are getting cocky and self-righteous," Kristof writes at one point.
We're getting cocky and self-righteous now? Where the heck has Kristof been since maybe the 1960s?
In fairness to Kristof, he explicitly comes out, in the end, in favor of using the tools of "persuasion." To see persuasion at work in the world, take a long look at Dolly Parton.
In this report, NPR includes the four-minute video Parton released when she received her first Covid shot this week. In that video, you see someone endorsing a "blue world" prescription in "red world" raiment and language.
She's speaking across cultural lines, recommending our prescription in a way Others may accept.
As we noted last week, Bill Clinton also knew how to do that. More specifically, he knew how to "like and admire" people with whom he disagreed.
What's the best way to win people over? For starters, stop telling them how much you loathe them. (It helps if you can honestly say and show that you don't.) Stop saying how evil they are.
You can never win everyone over. It probably helps if you can remember that you're not trying to do that.
You also won't win the least persuadable people over. It helps if you remember that you're trying to reach the most persuadable people—and if you remember that no one's required to agree with you or with your point of view.
What's the best way to win (some) people over? According to experts, we should stop insisting that they all just have to be evil and stupid and bad!