And, I promise I will stop trying to convince you.
Convincing doesn’t work, and it never has. And, it’s making us dumber.
Convincing is a form of coercion. Power imposed. It seeks conquest of the others’ perspective (action), which usually only retrenches the others’ perspective (reaction). Think about a time when you knew someone was trying to convince you of something counter to your beliefs. How did you respond? I know my initial response is usually to defend and challenge, if for nothing else, the sport of it.
In fact, I have never been convinced of anything, and, I bet, you haven't either.
When it seems like we have been convinced, what has actually happened is that we have learned. Someone has shared a new perspective in a way that we could understand. They have provided new information that we were able to consume. They have posed a question that gave us a safe space to rethink our assumptions. They have done something that has enabled us to reflect on our positions in a way that alters them. Something has happened within us. They haven’t imposed it, forced it, or made it so. They haven’t convinced us. They have provided a prompt and/or an environment in which we could convince ourselves.
This is teaching/learning. This is the open exchange of power.
In a post-truth America, understanding this dynamic is even more critical. There will always be facts, “facts”, and “alternate facts” that will make any case on anything. We can always find someone on the Internet who agrees with us, or we can say it enough times in enough places that it appears so. This emboldens those who want to convince and bolsters the defense of those who won’t be convinced. The logical conclusion of this dynamic then is a stalemate, the end of teaching and learning, a perpetual confirmation bias arms race with the chilling effect of an intellectual Cold War.
Stop convincing. Start teaching. Stop being convinced. Start learning. It’s critical to our relationships and fundamental to our democracy.
You’ll never convince me otherwise.
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