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Tuesday, 14 October 2008

What America’s politicians really, really don’t get about the art of persuasion

I get at regular intervals messages from a liberal friend in San Francisco (where else?)

Quite a few are very funny – and currently most are aimed at McCain and Palin.

I’m staying with my son in Brooklyn. His wife watches Bill Maher, who makes lots of jokes about McCain and Palin. They’re funny, too. Jon Stewart is hilarious along the same lines.

But this is all just political masturbation. It pleases those involved immensely, but gets no useful results.

These messages simply confirm people in their prejudices. They do nothing to persuade (if they are seen by them) Republicans – in fact they probably strengthen their views.

And I wager they do little to sway the undecided – indeed, they build sympathy for those attacked. Lots of people will relate to Sarah Palin, for instance.

If you want to persuade, start with where people are – what they are thinking. Not with what you are thinking.

Sympathy with the shortcomings of your opponent will go a lot further, spiced with the odd damaging disclosure.

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