I posted before on the how-to-win-friends part of Dale Carnegie’s classic How To Win Friends And Influence People. Today I’ll discuss influencing. Carnegie offers twelve principles, the first three of which are:
It was in a textbook for a communications class I was teaching (ironically) - not a great textbook, but I think almost any communications textbook will reveal the same insights. Relevant search terms: "relational maintenance," "self-presentation," and "instrumental goals."
Whoa, I had not heard about such a petition. Here's wikipedia on the issue.
If an opponent is unable or unwilling to change their mind, there is no use communicating with them.
.. the question of whether communication of disagreement frequently or ever changes folks minds
Indeed and I would also point out that the disagreement, in addition to being mostly ineffective, is likely to make the opponent even less likely to change their opinion.
Any books worth suggesting?
Indeed - I do not mean that we shouldn't give others the benefit of the doubt. (I had to learn about communication goals from a book!)
It's important to remember that it's often truly unclear to (us) autistic types that communication is this way. Don't attribute someone's insistence on factual correctness as dickishness until they actually understand what's going on. The fact that autistic types (like me) will reform their behavior (to an extent) is evidence that this is due to cluelessness, not dickishness.
Yes! In our autistic world, it's easy to forget that most people communicate for two basic goals: (a) relationship building/maintenance, and (b) self-presentation. Truth or information transfer barely registers, and our insistence on factual correctness in the context of, say, a regular human party, is just dickishness - a refusal to acknowledge the goals of those around us.
You say: "Yes, their refusing to disagree on something important could fail to inform others, but I doubt they took this habit to such extremes. I expect that in such situations they disagreed indirectly, but still got their key info across."
Not being as effective of a communicator as Carnegie or Franklin, I have to disagree. I am strongly inclined to believe that (a) they likely did not get their info across...because truth usally wasn't their goal. Instead, truth was a means to a goal, and they correctly concluded that truth wasn't a very effective means to many (any?) goals.
So instead, they endeavored towards their goals effectively rather than truthily.
As a second line of disagreement...we need to address the question of whether communication of disagreement frequently or ever changes folks minds. If, as Franklin and Carnegie suggest, communicating disagreement has a ~1% chance of impacting someone's opinion...then even your (and my) truth-seeking goal isn't served by disagreeing, except perhaps with very rare individuals...and knowing that, the effective communicator should perhaps abandon the attempt to change minds, and attempt secondary goals instead, which are themselves actively inhibited by disagreeing.
I'm pretty sure being completely non-argumentative/non-confrontational is also looked down upon. Not having any opinion at all can make you look weak or uninteresting.
I think the trick comes in as where to draw the line. Your thesis adviser might say X, and you agree even though he is wrong, etc. All fine, as long as it's inconsequential. But what if he argues with you about something more fundamental, like whether the first order of government is to get bigger, or the key problem with finance is the assumption of perfect information, or that America desperately needs open immigration. How do you disagree on these issues without losing their important support? Perhaps, you look for a new coalition, acknowledging that you don't change beliefs, just coalitions.
Robin, I for one encourage you to continue your prickly practice of being brutally/painfully honest on your blog. Yes, you could most-certainly win both more friends and more powerful friends by paying closer attention to Dale Carnegie. However, to loosely paraphrase Star Wars, those aren't the friends you're looking for. :)
It seems a shame that generational separation prevented a conversation on this topic between Carnegie and Robert Aumann. The latter won a Nobel by being correct, yet apparently alienated over 1,000 academics who signed a petition to have the award revoked.
This took me quite a while to figure out myself. If you're not in a hostile venue, ask yourself this before supplying a correction.
Is the misstatement actually a 'load bearing' component of the argument that the speaker is making? If it isn't, don't play gotcha the fact-checker.
If it is, a gentle correcting question like you describe is probably the way to go.
Of course, if its a hostile communication, nitpick away. Just don't expect anyone to like it.
Those three rules are basically the antithesis of the "rules" of arguing on the internet, which is why they might seem hard to grasp for readers of this blog (myself included).
Before correcting someone, I like to ask myself if I'm correcting this person because I genuinely want to dispel an incorrect notion (and improve their life) or do I just want other people to see how smart I am?
Usually, I just want to signal, so I keep my mouth shut.