Art of persuasion

10 months ago

To the editor:

I write to the Valley’s young men and women, who I hope will not quietly inherit the privilege to lead their wonderful, caring community.  

I commend to your attention a letter from Walter Crean published June 14.  Please read it, respectfully.  Walter speaks here often, freely and rightly.  Like so much of what he offers, his June essay models zeal, full-throated proof that he deeply, commendably, believes what he says.  He leavens his commentary in his own well-structured, signature voice.  I urge you to embrace these fruit as you explore and shore up your own intellectual foundations.  

That said, bring more fruit.  Please.  When you try to persuade others to your point of view, consider bringing three fruit that I commend below and that I hope Mr. Crean might showcase another day:  

First, consider tone.  Civility matters.  Don’t carpet bomb snarky comments.  One may hit its target here or there, but most miss with a predictable thud.  Diversify your arguments.  Flamboyantly impressing the home team recruits no visitors.  Persuasion is art, not a shell game, and pugilistic innuendo favors neither.  Don’t stoop to rhetorical bullying:  it might win curbside, but it routinely fails in class rooms and board rooms, kitchens and bedrooms.  

Next, offer balance.  Consider your audience and own any comparison you imply.  You may criticize Billy’s performance, fairly, but state your criteria and acknowledge Billy’s predecessor’s short-falls.  Qualified criticism roots in objectivity, but bombastic subjectivity only recirculates noise.  Make objectivity is a lion.  Tame it as your beacon and shield.  Own it.  Know that moody opinions flop around like well-hooked, bank-beached trout.  Be a lion, not a trout.

Third, bring facts.  Identify, stand with your sources.  Horses lead carts, facts lead assertions.  Lead.  Fact and right reason are weighty; fiction and lurid hype are feathery alternatives.  Be neither fool nor fooled.  Facts and reason guide sound debate.  Master them.  I know you can.  Do it.  It matters.  You’ll see in dear time.

Be good stewards of these fruit, enduring and potent precepts of the persuasive arts.  

Al Craft
Former Fort Kent resident
Raleigh, North Carolina