By Dave Andrusko
Editor’s note. This is adapted from a workshop on Persuasion that took place July 6 at the National Right to Life Convention which took place in Charleston, South Carolina.
This is our team’s fifth time together sharing a few minutes with you, grassroots pro-lifers who are the heart and soul of our Movement, on the topic of Persuasion. 2019 is also the second year without the Leader of the Band—our friend and colleague, the late Jean Garton.
But you are still blessed with an “A” team—Lori Kehoe and Rai Rojas– who are remarkably gifted and convincing communicators. So, without further ado, or any ado, let me talk for just a few minutes.
For the most part Rai and Lori will talk about persuasion in public policy settings. I will offer three points about making the case for life in one-on-one settings.
Who recalls that famous opening sentence of Rick Warren’s, The Purpose Driven Life? “It’s not about you.”
When I am attempting to move somebody to recognize the justice of our cause, it isn’t about me. It can’t be about me. If it is—if my ego, my desire to be clever, or anything else besides the importance of the truth of the message—I am starting with my feet shackled and one arm tied behind my back.
Much more important, I am putting our cause—unborn babies– at a huge disadvantage.
Back to the Three Points.
1. Let me offer what I hope is a useful distinction between convincing and persuading.
Convince comes from a Latin word meaning, “conquer, overcome.” To convince someone of something is to present facts, logic, arguments, etc., that cause another person to believe the truth of something. In other words, when you are convinced of something, you “conquer” or “overcome” your previous beliefs.
Persuade comes from a Latin word that means “advise, make appealing.” When you persuade someone to do something, you make that action sound appealing or good.
One convinces someone of something but one persuades someone to do something. We want both.
2. In debate settings, we are tempted to believe that our objective is to show that the thinking of our adversary is so flawed, his character so questionable, her humanity so lacking that they must be reduced to rubble. However that is not a good idea in any context but especially not so with individuals who are not our opponents but non-participants, spectators.
With that in mind let me tell you about a book I am currently finishing which I’ve started twice before: “Tactics” written by Gregory Koukl.
Koukl distinguished between strategy and tactics. In the context of our discussion about persuasion, strategy is all about content. In our case, we can know every Supreme Court decision and can recite the citations hidden away in tiny footnotes from memory. The language of prenatal development can practically be our mother tongue. And we could know the flaw in every pro-abortion argument like the back of our hand.
But…so what? Knowledge is only one leg of a tripod. There is also wisdom and character.
Wisdom “requires the tools of a diplomat, not the weapons of a warrior,” Koukl writes, “tactical skill rather than brute force.” I think it has something to do with what someone once described as being wise as serpents, innocent as doves.
However the make or break is my or your character. I am currently leading a group studying Andy Stanley’s book Deep and Wide. Andy wrote something that is as profound as it is simple. “We resist being influenced by people we don’t know or don’t trust. We are open to the influence of those whom we trust or whom we perceived have our best interests at heart. Trust requires common ground.” And “Trust requires empathy.”
If I am busy worrying about “winning” or being “right”—or if I don’t even bother to understand where the other person is coming from– chances are I am not a particularly sympathetic or empathic figure.
Who is going to listen to me?
Why should they?
3. If I think the Cause of Life rests in my hands, I am not only delusional, I’m putting impossible pressure on myself. Consider: What happens if I make an unassailable case– brilliant, closely reasoned, jaw-dropping in its persuasiveness–and the person who I am trying to bring over looks up and says, “Yah?”
What happens when the person we are cultivating goes further? They challenge us, in fact ridicule us? Remember, conversion/transformational experiences on anything are usually a long time in the making. With that in mind, suck it up and accept the rebuttal with grace.
What is the alternative? Responding likewise and making the ultimate transformation much more difficult? If there is a Golden Rule here, if the one you are talking with gets angry, you lose, the cause we work for loses.
Be modest, even be, dare I say, humble. On occasion we will not only sow the seed but reap the whirlwind–an “aha” moment.
Sometimes we will plant along the path, a non-starter. More often we are planting seeds in soil that is rocky or filled with thorns. Occasionally we will plant in good soil.
Whatever the soil’s composition, remind yourself that more often than not someone else will come along and do the “watering, and weeding, one by one tending to the plant, cultivating healthy growth until it was ripe and ready to reap,” to quote Koukl one last time .
It is enough to be seed sowers. While it’d be nice to “close the deal”—and, if we are fortunate, on occasions we will– it is enough to put a stone in someone’s shoe.