When we wish to correct with advantage, and to show another that he errs, we must notice from what side he views the matter, for on that side it is usually true, and admit that truth to him, but reveal to him the side on which it is false. He is satisfied with that, for he sees that he was not mistaken, and that he only failed to see all sides. Now, no one is offended at not seeing everything; but one does not like to be mistaken, and that perhaps arises from the fact that man naturally cannot see everything, and that naturally he cannot err in the side he looks at, since the perceptions of our senses are always true.Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal, 17th Century, French Philosopher.
People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others. Also Blaise Pascal
Not everyone can be treated with this method as laid out by Pascal 350 years prior to our time. Some people are unresponsive to simple courtesy. They don’t know how to carry on a decent conversation, so much less a polite disagreement or even less an argument. In fact, unless you belong to a secret society, an elite social club, or alumni organization, those three things no longer exist.
People tend to talk AT you rather than With you. They go directly to high alert if they think you think something different from them. And there is no argument. They are right and you are crazy. Extremes are now normal. I was amused the other day at a hotel where I spent the night in Connecticut (Connect ti cut). I reached the elevator alone, pressed the button and waited. Meanwhile, a young woman wearing a mask, a business suit and heels showed up. She looked at me kind of weird and I thought, she will probably wait for another elevator since I was was old, chubby, dressed in comfortable clothes and sneakers SANS mask. I know, I know, I usually wear the little cloth ones in such places just to save time and angst and to make everyone else happy. I’m too old to be struggling with the New People.
But when the elevator door opened I went in, pushed the button and stepped back in case she was not going to the lobby. She crunched up in the corner as if I had bubonic plague, leprosy, and omicron all at the same time. At first, I though uh, oh, I forgot my mask! Mea culpa! Mea culpa! Then I thought, hey! wait a minute. She didn’t have to get on the elevator with me. There were two elevators and no one else around. I made a judgement about her by her actions, her clothes, and her shoes. And she did the same.
I was ready to take the blame for her uncomfortableness when clearly she had options she did not exercise. Had I struck up or tried to strike up a conversation with her, she might have talked my ear off. She could have been a pediatric surgeon her way to donate her time at a Children’s Hospital. She could have been a Russian spy or whatever. I will never know because I was afraid to talk to her. Three years ago, I would have said “Hi! How are you today?” and she would have either mumbled a response or answered with something similar.
Now back to Blaise Pascal. He was not known as a psychologist, but he certainly had common sense and understood human nature very well. I learned about him in college but I never heard or read what he had to say about the correct and less painful way to tell someone they are wrong, or at least expressing your opinion without being over-bearing, aggressive or argumentative. He advocated the same thing I used with my co-workers and the people I supervised for years.
After reading this about Mr. Pascal, I am very pleased to have come to the same conclusion as this famous philosopher. It proves I am not without common sense like I have been told. In fact, this psychological approach to corrective or persuasive speech used to work in the good old days, but I’m sorry to say it does not work so much anymore. People of opposite opinions do not consider their views as opinions at all, but rather as facts. As a result, listening to someone explain a different viewpoint is akin to the Puritan way practiced in early America. If it’s different, don’t listen to it, nip it in the bud immediately before it spreads.