In high school, one of the requirements in Mrs. Metcalf’s class was a persuasive speech. We each had five to seven minutes to convince the class we were right about whatever subject we had chosen and researched. In the end I don’t know that anyone was persuaded of anything, but a some good discussions opened up and several intense arguments were started. I think Mrs. Metcalf was really just looking to find potential debate team candidates.
I learned several things from that class, but the most interesting was during the persuasive speeches and it didn’t have anything to do with speech preparation or presentation. It had everything to do with human behavior. That was the first time I realized someone else’s opinion is likely to be just as strong as mine and that it can be extremely challenging to get someone to see things my way.
The harsh reality is this … the harder you push, the harder someone else pushes back. No one was ever convinced with harsh words and yelling. He or she might give in and give up, but it’s because they just got tired of fighting. However, as my mom would have said, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” I get the point, but don’t like to think about it too long. It’s disgusting.
Aesop wrote a fable in the early 1900’s about a bet between the wind and the sun. The wind challenged the sun saying he could make an old man take his coat off faster than the sun. Game on! The sun went behind the clouds and the wind blew and blew and the old man only clutched his coat more tightly. Finally the wind gave up. The sun then came out and smiled kindly on the old man. The old man eventually began to sweat and pulled off his coat.
The bottom line is this: gentleness and friendliness are always stronger than fury and force. Many times the best persuasive speeches are delivered without words.