Argue Without The Facts
We're gonna talk now about arguing without the facts. Which is really what immediately, whenever I... If I try to do a talk where I start with this, everybody just suddenly slides into system two, and I've lost them. Like, "Oh my gosh!". In this time when the facts are killing us as a nation, and ruining the world, what are we gonna do? Well actually, what's really kinda interesting is, one of the problems is that we are trying to argue too much with facts alone, and we don't, when people are screwing up the facts, then things really go bad. And if you know how to argue without the facts, you can help yourself. So why should you argue? Well for one thing, you don't always know the facts, right? You just can't know all the-even with Google, you can't always know the facts. Though my wife, she is the fastest Googler in the world, by the way. She fact checks everything I say with her phone, it drives me crazy. But even she can't do this. So if you find yourself freezing up when the other ...
person you're talking to knows more than you do, that's problematic, and it's gonna happen. But here's where it really gets interesting from a rhetorical standpoint, from a persuasion standpoint. When, neuroscience has shown this by hooking up electrodes to people's brains, where, I don't know how that works exactly, but it must be true. That shows that when people actually are confronted with facts that are opposed to their opinion, it actually makes them entrenched in their own opinions. Have you heard this? So if you counter in an argument, logically, with better facts than what they have, then they are going to be more entrenched. You're simply not gonna persuade them. You may be right, but that's not gonna do any good. You're not gonna sway anybody, okay? So even if you do have the facts, they don't always work when it comes to actual persuasion. So you've seen this, right? Okay. That's why I'm dwelling on this a little bit, because I think it's really important to understand. Facts by themselves are not persuasive. Except in certain situations, they can be. In most situations, they're not, all right? So what do you do? Let's talk about how to argue if you don't have the facts, or if you know that the facts aren't gonna work. Be the audience. Most important thing of all. And this, by the way, can help you through meetings as well, which we're going to get to that. The word 'audience', I'm a word nerd, so I have to do this. You know, comes from the roots meaning 'to hear', right? It means being the audience means a listener. But the original meaning of it was a leader or a member of the royalty agreeing to listen to you. So to this day, we talk about having an audience with the Pope. It's like a really big thing, right? So who's got the power there? The speaker, you? Saying, "Hi, Pope". Or whatever you say to a Pope. Or the Pope? It's the listener, the person who's not speaking, actually has the power. And this is true in many, even possibly most rhetorical situations. Why is that? Who has the power? Who's the decider? If you're trying to get somebody to change their mind, the audience has the power, because they're the ones who are gonna decide whether they're gonna be persuaded by you. So one way to argue without the facts is to be the audience. Put yourself on the side of the listener. This, by the way, is kind of a good thing for us as people. To get along with people. And this is true especially if you're a loud mouth like me, and a man, just shutting up now and then is a really powerful thing to do for a relationship. My wife tells me this all the time, when I let her. So all right, so by listening, you can actually gain some power. And this makes some women uncomfortable when I say this, because they don't get enough of a voice often, you know? Women in society, because of the way we structure society, don't get enough of a voice. So I'm telling you to shut up, like having a man tell a woman to shut up is really not a good idea. I understand that. But I'm not telling you to shut up. I'm telling you to wait. And we're back to cats now, be the predator who waits for the opportunity to speak, and we're gonna get to that in just a bit. So this is one of the greatest things to do in a conversation, is not barge in. Wait, okay? How do you do that? One phrase turns you into the audience instantly. "Convince me, talk me into it". So I actually used to sell hats on Cafe Press, am I allowed to say that? On a website that says, "Talk me into it". I sold hats, t-shirts, I bought lots of mine, I don't know if anybody else did. But you know, what I was trying to do is to say, this is introducing a really important rhetorical concept, which is that the speaker does not have the power. The audience has the power. The audience decides whether to be persuaded. And we often think that persuasion happens kind of unconsciously, and we're manipulated into things. In most cases, that's not true. We do make choices. We decide whether we wanna buy a product or join a group, or vote for a particular political party. Just saying, "Talk me into it", turns you into an audience. You become the Pope temporarily, okay? Feel free to push back on some of this stuff, 'cause this is tricky territory here. The other thing you can do one you are the audience is to ask questions, and by asking questions, you can actually persuade people. What's interesting about this is we're slowly sliding into this art of agree ability, where you're arguing without appearing to. And by asking questions, you're actually persuading your audience a little bit by pretending you're the audience. Let's talk about what some of these questions are. Definitions, we talked about reframing by asking what's the meaning of words? We're gonna get a little more into that. Ask questions. What do you mean by? Ask about facts. Hey, do you have any evidence for that? Do you have any facts that you can back up this opinion? So this is great to do with an uncle on Thanksgiving, it drives them crazy. They've had too much wine, you know, you're asking them questions and suddenly they're in system two and they're not even convincing themselves. Ask about the sources of those facts, where did you get them? Where did you get those facts? From some guy at a bar? Or you know, do you actually have evidence you can refer to? From a particular, reliable sort. So let's do an exercise, okay? Let's spot the word that needs defining here. I'm gonna play this role, I'll be the obnoxious uncle. I'm good at this. I am an obnoxious uncle actually, in real life. So I'm gonna say, the Earth is flat. Everybody who's in the know, knows the Earth is totally flat. I mean, if you look at it, wow, the Earth is flat. Right? Who wants to, I'm now the flat-Earther. Who wants to-go for it. Let's do it, Amanda.
Okay, so how do I start?
So look at those three things. Definitions, facts, and sources. And let's see if you can do them in order, cause they work in this order, okay? So let's, let me talk for a little bit. You are the audience. You're listening. And then you're gonna hit me with a question that's gonna throw me off balance, and that's gonna have to do with the definition. So one of the things you wanna do is to say, "What do you mean by?", and spot a term that you can ask about that, okay?
Right? So everybody knows that the Earth is flat if they really think about it, because I mean, think about it. How many times have you been upside down on this Earth? It makes absolutely no sense. Okay? What are you thinking about? Is there a term that you can define, that say, ask about the definition of? What do you mean by?
What do you mean by 'everybody'?
What do I mean by everybody? That is perfect, right? You think about that, something and okay, what do I mean by everybody? Clearly, everyone around the table is looking at me like I'm crazy. So literally not everybody. Already, I'm starting to doubt myself, aren't I?
Okay, I'm still with the crazy uncle, so I'm gonna say, "Well by everybody", now what am I doing here? I'm narrowing my definition, so it's gonna be less powerful when I do that. I'm gonna say, "Well by everybody, I mean everybody who's really in the know, who really understands the way physics work, and let me tell you, little girl, while physics work-". Uncles do that, don't they? They like they're, every uncle is a total sexist at a Thanksgiving table. At least in my head. I won't go there. So okay, the Earth is flat, everybody, by everybody I mean you know, everybody who's kinda really smart and in the know. And not some female at the table. Okay.
All right, so now... And by that, I mean understanding physics. And you know, you gotta understand physics. If you go in a straight line, that line's just gonna continue to be straight until you reach the end of the Earth. Now, if you've ever been to the seashore, you've seen it, like there's a line right there that ends, and that is Earth. And you know, okay, I hear people say it's curved, but really that's the end of the Earth. A little harder, here.
So who are these physicians that you're speaking about? Who are those people?
I'm not 'physic' here, not medicine. And if you understand physics, you know that.
Sorry. I'm an obnoxious uncle, I'm gonna do this to you.
I mean, the scientists. Who are the scientists that are saying this?
I'm not talking about scientists. I'm talking about people who understand physics, and here's the thing. Science, there's so much stuff going on in science, these people, I mean you think about it. Where are they living? They're living in college campuses. What do they know? I mean, they never get out of their little Ivy towers, and they use government money, they just waste it on these stupid theories that don't make any sense. So what we're talking about is the physics of common sense. All right? Now you're... This is an obvious one, right?
What do I mean by?
Common sense. Now all the sudden it's like, "Oh jeez, like where am I now?". Common sense. And I will try to redefine it, but you're slowly, my faith in my own opinion is starting to crumble, just a little bit. Now are you gonna, at the end, is the guy gonna start crying and say, "I'm so sorry, I really do believe the Earth is round now, you've convinced me". No. But that person's gonna walk away maybe being a little less obnoxious about that opinion. See what I'm doing here? Okay, then you can talk about like, all right, let's talk about these facts behind this physics. And one of the ways to do this, your demeanor should be open, smiling, ideally you want this person to put himself into system two, not you. So you're also thinking there are other people at the dinner table, you don't wanna be the obnoxious one. So and probably at some point, somebody's gonna weigh in saying, "Will you please stop? Can we just eat our turkey?" But keep going, and what you can do then is to say, "All right, what's your evidence?". Right? See, you can say, can you think about how you might do that?
Who are the scientists that are saying this? What's your evidence, and where'd you find this information?
Okay, that's sources, but in the meantime, what you can do is to ask for really specific stuff like, okay, how many miles is it from here to the end of the Earth? And can you point this out on Google Maps? And that's, so get really specific. If you can get numbers in there, it drives people crazy. And often what'll happen is, people will name a number because you know, if you're pressured you can come up with a number. Well, it's obvious. It's you know, you think about every time you fly, you get from point A to point B, the farthest you can possibly fly is 12 hours, the average airplane flies at 500 miles an hour? So therefore, from here to the end of the Earth, is 6,000 miles. I can do math, maybe you can't. But this is how I know. Now what do you do? You say, "Well wait a minute. You just told me how far it is to go from point A to point B, what are you referring to and what's the source of this? Are we talking about an airline itinerary or is there something else you're getting this information from?". And then finally, you say, "What?". I'm putting you on the spot here, Amanda.
What's your sources, where is this information coming from?
Well what you can say is, look really interested and say, "I would love to go to that website. Can you give me the URL?". Right? So the point here is your demeanor should be very open. So you can say, "This is really interesting". Now everybody else is gonna be smirking when you say that. They know you're ironic. That's fine. But at the same time, your uncle's gonna be a little flattered, right? That you're just smiling about this. As long as you're not looking sarcastic, and you can say, "This is really interesting, I've heard about this flat Earth thing. Tell me more". Let the person say his idiotic stuff, and then you can say, "What do you mean by? Can you give me a number? And where did you get that number? I would love to go there, too. I would love to go to that website and find out for myself. Cause I wanna be just like you. Okay? Now people will totally see through the irony, and that's just fine, but at the same time you're not being angry, you're not being confrontational, and you're slowly crumbling that opinion in the person's mind. And a lot of research shows that this actually causes people to moderate their opinion a bit. So the guy, you may talk him into a semi circle. Or something. But if you look at other extremist opinions, like you know, we should be on the gold standard. You know? Which most economists would say, will probably ruin our economy. There's people who say we should be on the gold standard. I hope I get flamed for saying that, by the way. I love those tweets from people who tell me how wrong I am. But again, well you can say, "What do you mean by gold? What's the standard?". You know? And then you can go, "Well what do you mean by economy?" A lot of people talk about jobs by the way. If you ask people whenever the subject comes up about jobs, like your local economy and taxes and things like that. Ask them, "What do you mean by jobs?" You'll see people fall apart. Because it's really hard to define what a job is, especially in this economy, isn't it? If you use the word 'freedom', and they use it in advertising all the time, not just politics, but the word 'freedom', ask 'em what they mean by freedom. Everybody on Earth has a different opinion of what that is. So that's what, when we're talking about these question techniques, We're back to you being the audience. And actually, when are you actually expressing your opinion? Never. You're not expressing your opinion, you're just undermining the other person's opinion a little bit. Is this ethical? Totally, I think. Because people's opinions should be undermined. We should always doubt a little bit about what we're thinking. The world would be a better place if more of us did. Beyond that, then you can, when you can stop being the audience at some point and say, "All right, let me share some things with you". That's fine to do. But you're not doing that until the other person has had in this case, his say.