Why WinSome Works

There’s nothing more frustrating than having a great idea that repeatedly gets rejected. You can’t understand why people don’t embrace that which you have found to be sweet and healthy. You naturally wonder about their intellectual abilities, their sanity, and their motives.

This describes much of what passes for public (if not civil) dialogue. The never-ending divisive debate fosters, at best, team spirit, at worst, a kind of toxic atmosphere that stymies the highest aspirations of all of us.

When was the last time you saw, heard or read of an encounter between two people taking opposing positions that ended with either side agreeing to reconsider her position based on the new information revealed in the discussion?

It never happens.

So why do we continue to watch (and participate in) such arguments? For the same reason we watch a UFC fight, or a football game. We love the competition, and the more brutal it is, the more it gets our adrenaline going. But a kick-boxing cage-match has no higher aspiration. Its contestants are not trying to create a more just society, with equal opportunity for all, and an atmosphere in which each can pursue happiness in a way that also benefits others.

May I suggest that you have such aspirations?

If you have not experienced the frustration of failing to “win” the argument, then I would suggest that you’re in it for the adrenaline, and don’t care whether the world ever adopts your viewpoint. In fact, you might be disappointed if you won — because the fight would be over. But most people who engage in vigorous public debate really do care, they just have no models for how to conduct these conversations in a way that actually wins. They may try to emulate their media heroes, only to discover that what entertains on radio or video, doesn’t succeed one-to-one.

WinSome is an approach to engaging people in the way most likely to gain a hearing for your ideas, so that those ideas have an opportunity to prevail and, ultimately, to make life better for the persuaded one, and for society. Its minimum goal is to bring about friendships where grace and respect rule. Its ultimate aspiration is to transform society, allowing each of us to live the freedom we cherish, and to pursue happiness in a way that also blesses others.

In short, the reason WinSome works is that it sets a progressive hierarchy of achievable goals, and maps a path to them. At any point along that path, any progress represents a win. This contrasts with the typical debate-defeat-destroy strategy which has only two possible outcomes — win or lose the argument. Neither outcome is typically acknowledged by the other party.

To adopt the WinSome strategy requires a change of heart and mind. It means seeing ideological opponents not as “the enemy,” but as people who have not yet seen the light. It means putting more value on people than on opinions. It calls for overlooking an offense to embrace the big picture. And, perhaps most difficult, it requires humility and a willingness to listen.

You may consider all of this simply as the courtesy and civility with which decent people conduct their lives, regardless of the political (or other) objective. Or you may simply see this strategy instrumentally, as a tool for getting your way. I would respectfully suggest that its both, and more. Ultimately, I believe my values and ideas about governance and society are the ones the most able to bring good life to the most people. In addition, I believe, as grandpa used to say, you attract more with honey than with vinegar.

WinSome means much more than merely that you win some arguments. It means you win some friends by being winsome.

Winsome: attractive or appealing in appearance or character.

Your attractive demeanor makes room for your ideas, and invites others to discover why you’re so happy. Done well, it means you’re never forcing your ideas on another, but rather, inviting them to enjoy what has delighted you.