There is another alternative to the WinSome strategy of persuasion, other than the old debate-defeat-destroy paradigm.
You could just not do it. Don’t try to persuade anyone of anything.
“Are you kidding me, Scott Ott?”
No, actually, I’m not.
Think of it this way: You don’t have to spend hours, days, months or years trying to change the mind of another person. You could just, in the words of The Beatles, “Let it be.”
There are a few benefits to this laissez-faire strategy.
- You get to drop the word laissez-faire into conversation and sound quite continental.
- There’s a chance you might never have persuaded that person anyway, and perhaps you already have plenty of friends, so that gaining another provides only a marginal benefit.
- You might have convinced yourself that you’ll fail to remain winsome through the WinSome process, and therefore would be likely to offend the other person. In that case, your efforts would produce more harm than good for your movement. So, rather than mess things up, perhaps the best strategy is just to shut up, and leave people alone.
- Life is short, so why spend so much of it focused on politics and persuasion, when you could be making butterscotch pudding, or footprints in the sand.
So, if you’re among the people who find these reasons compelling, I’ll pause while you file quietly out of the room. Farewell, and may God bless you.
Now then, for those of you who have stayed, let me tell you why I don’t buy the reasons I listed above.
It comes down to the heart of my message. WinSome is about making friends and making life better for yourself and for others. It’s not primarily about politics — at least not about the politics we’ve come to know from cable news or social media.
WinSome practitioners spread joy wherever they go. They enjoy their own lives, and make it possible for others to wring more joy out of life as well.
In a nutshell, the pursuit of happiness and the blessings of liberty are the goal of the WinSome movement.
That’s not to say that it always works out that way. But wouldn’t it be better to get up every morning on a mission to enhance joy for yourself, for your family, and for those around you?
We go about this not with a stern determination to carry out our duty, but with a joyful sense of fulfilling our purpose in life.
In other words, even if you didn’t think that WinSome would work to persuade others — although I do — you might want to adopt the approach anyway, simply because it’s one of the best possible ways to spend your fleeting time here on Earth.
Making friends, getting to know them, learning about the variety of ideas folks carry around in their heads, and connecting with their hearts and minds through grace, respect and love, are rewards in their own right.
As you practice the WinSome lifestyle, your life gets better and you can’t help but improve life for others.
What a great way to spend your days!
In addition, your persuasion efforts may actually bear fruit, and you can be part of making your country, and this world, a better place. At the very least, your friend-making efforts will certainly do that.
So, you could opt to refrain from WinSome, and I won’t judge you. Just go live your life, and enjoy. But if you choose to embark upon the WinSome life, I predict you will not only “meet with a success unexpected in common hours” (as Thoreau put it), but you’ll be happier too.
Less Talk, More Win
There’s another idea here that may be hard to grasp at first. Because I present WinSome explicitly as “the art of persuasion,” it’s hard to imagine how that plays out in real time. Since I started seeing life this way, I have spent significantly less time in political conversations with people.
That’s right: I intentionally strive to win folks to my point of view, and I spend less time talking about that point of view.
I avoid engaging people who come at me in a hostile manner or who seem determined to trip me up. I use self-deprecating humor, and smile while gently deflecting ideas that seem stupid, crazy or evil. All of this I do to avoid debating politics with people who do not yet respect and love me.
Until we share a bond of affection, or the other person holds me in esteem, there’s no use spouting my opinions about disputable matters. They’ll roll off him like water from a duck’s back.
This may sound shocking, since many of my “warrior” allies think it’s a war crime to avoid engaging the enemy at every opportunity. They see it as capitulation — surrender.
But it’s often the better part of valor to avoid confrontation until the time is right, and even then, to engage on your own terms, rather than resort to the tried-and-false tactic of fruitless, redundant battles. Remember, we intend to win, not merely to fight.
All of this to say that committing to the WinSome lifestyle will most likely reduce the total word-count you expend (or expel) in defense of your ideas.
You’ll devote more time to listening, learning, demonstrating respect and caring toward others.
When to Make the Sale
In my work at the retail store, I often do not sell something to a person on her first visit. We usually devote the initial meetup to getting to know each other. I try to understand her needs. She evaluates whether she can trust me as a guide in the important process of furnishing her home. When returns for her second visit, the actual sales process is usually a breeze. I don’t have to persuade her of anything. She trusts and likes me. The conversation is easy, filled with humor and joy, and ends in a transaction in which she gets furniture and I get money.
An outside observer, tracking my activity might note that I failed to make a sale on the first visit and succeeded on the second. This is not true. I made the sale on the first visit. On the second visit, we just mopped up the details. That’s because the sale is the relationship. Once we connect through respect, courtesy and trust, the rest is gravy. And she’ll come back to me repeatedly to buy other things for her home.
Political persuasion is much the same.
“The sale” is made when the relationship is born. The actual transition to a better set of ideas comes little-by-little, over time, as the fruit of that relationship.
Because this is true, it is not important to introduce political topics early in the process. In fact, I avoid politics like the plague early on.
I tell you all of this to reduce the trepidation some feel when they anticipate difficult political conversations, with people getting defensive and angry.
WinSome strategy, properly employed, never goes there.
My colleague at work, who I’ve mentioned elsewhere, used to bring up political topics frequently, and I would deflect them with humor, or appear to concede his point — “you may be right” or “I don’t know much about that” — and move on, avoiding engagement. These days, when he sees me, he’s more likely to talk about music, or something work-related. We’re not debate opponents. We’re friends. We respect and like each other. I’ve won a friend who’s a vigorous Progressive, and he has one who’s a committed Conservative. We’re real people to each other, not media-concocted caricatures. This is entirely healthy for civil dialogue and for a happy society.
If the two of us ever have to find a solution to a problem together, we’ll do so from a foundation of mutual respect and affection.
Isn’t that what we want from our legislative assemblies, and our political candidates? Do we really think that the endless bitter sniping is “entertaining,” or good for our republic?
The silly slap-fight has become so tedious and so predictable, I can’t stand to watch it, or listen to it. It’s tearing down the foundations of our government, and allowing a handful of people to protect and grow their profitable fiefdoms at our expense, while the rest of us wonder if things will ever change.
I’m tired of waiting for them to change.
It’s time for me to change.
I hope you’ll join me, and just do it.