Techniques of Persuasion
Introduction – The Study of the Black Arts.
Persuasion is the development of attractive elusive intellectual charm. -Henry Lagman
I started my search for the Techniques of Persuasion, in 2006, in a quest for skills of persuasion. I discovered these dangerous truths and techniques. It has led me to finally understand the admonition of the old lawyers I met when I first started practicing. They said to persuade, ” You have to get into the jury box.” This instruction however came without any insight into how this was to be done.
These skills are a combination of the skills of the Ancient Greeks and modern developments. The Greek’s skills may have been imperfect in explaining the natural world as they understood it, as logic is imperfect in explaining the human condition. Logic can not explain emotion. That portion of us which makes us human. I have been led to the resurrection of these skills through the study of the art of narrative. In the process I have discovered how through the combined exercise of these skills and logic, persuasion occurs.
This quest is did not lead me to abandon application of logic, but to complement it for persuasive effect. But in another sense, I have become anti-theoretical. Einstein, once said, “Everything which can be measured is not important, and everything which is important cannot be measured.” These skills have led me to understand the importance things which cannot be measured. My experience with them, in the courtroom, literally through trial and error, leads me to acknowledge their power.
It is my observation that lawyers and others who would be persuaders, do not know how to persuade. Their arguments often fall flat, in that they have no emotional overflow or belief. Application of these truths will allow the persuader the ability to imbue the listener , the true “Actor” of the argument to “own” the argument as their own. And while not abandoning logic, the goal of my inquiry is, as the ancient sophist would say “make the weaker argument stronger.”
Storytelling, or more precisely narration, is not the art of fabrication. Storytelling can be coarse and is an abasement of these skills. Narration rather than storytelling is dynamic and the soul of persuasion. It is every bit as valuable as a good deductive logical argument. This approach to persuasion is of inestimable value, as the human animal is undeniably both logical and emotional. It is an the pursuit of equity in the courtroom arts, which I seek, not the trump of one over the other. These skills are even more effective outside the courtroom. To limit them just to that environment is to do them and yourself a disservice.
The truths related herein are dangerous, because they may be misused by the unscrupulous. In that vein they are the root of seduction. For that reason, it bears that narrator and listener the need to understand them. In the right hands, these truths, may be used to achieve the ends of justice, rendered in the context of moderation and understanding. What is imparted herein calls for responsibility both from the narrator and the listener. It is my hope that it will strengthen the fabric of our democracy and redefine “the courtroom arts”, giving through narration those without a voice, “their experience to others.” Those which favor logic in argument, have nothing to fear, for if logic is to prevail in the light of these truths, it will be the more powerful of the two. The danger exists that pure logic causes a polarization of points of view. Indecision, grid lock or paralysis can be the result.
Mastering this approach, will bestow upon the student great responsibility for it’s misuse. Understanding it, will allow the logical individual to recognize it’s merits and at other times offer a defense, based on either logic or persuasion.
In the post modern age, computers are the height of logical reasoning, but have not achieved true artificial intelligence. The ability to reason ambiguity is presently beyond their grasp. The art of narration or “storytelling” in the courtroom is the development of the skill to resolve the ambiguity of the human experience by providing context. Moreover, those listeners subject to these truths, must recognize them for what they are. They are not “black magic”, (though they can be perceived as such) but they are a tool for dialogue and understanding of the complex human condition. They maybe used for purposes of deceit, mistrust, and discord, but ignoring or failing to understand them for that reason does not does not abolish them.
In the final analysis, it may be these very truths which separate us from the machines and give us insight into our very souls.