Patterico's Pontifications


Survey: What Are the Two Most Important Factors in Making a Persuasive Argument?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:42 pm

I wanted to reduce it to one factor, but I believe there are two equally important factors. I can’t say one is more important than the other.

So tell me: in your opinion, what are the two most important factors in making a persuasive argument? What MUST you have going for you in order to convince your audience?

One of them, I bet most of you will figure out. The other, very few will get. Maybe only the trial lawyers.

I will likely refer to this post again and again in the future.

Your thoughts below.

UPDATE: My answers here.

161 Responses to “Survey: What Are the Two Most Important Factors in Making a Persuasive Argument?”

  1. 1. The semblance of honesty/truth. Actual honesty/truth counts, if available.

    2. A personal or emotional hook. Cute baby.

    Pendleton (7f8d26)

  2. 1) Being right
    2) I don’t know, but I bet it will make me mad

    roy (d6fc79)

  3. Facts, and a good story to tell.

    JD (0f1c49)

  4. You gave it away. A trial lawyer’s job isn’t to find truth, it’s to convince the jury that they know the truth. So, you don’t actually need the truth.

    1) common sense
    2) faith (belief that achieving the most moral outcome requires you convincing someone else of something you, yourself are unsure of)

    Richard (efa17d)

  5. 1) Shoeshine
    2) Smile

    Oh wait, that’s what you need to be an effective salesman. What was your question again?

    JVW (bff0a4)

  6. 1)facts
    2)an understanding of the limitations of facts.

    Drew (491af1)

  7. Hm. I’d say 1) likability. Someone likable is trustworthy. We infer all kinds of good things on people when we like them. (conversely- if someone is found to be untrustworthy, they’re on the quick and easy path of unlikability)

    2) a reasonable and easy to understand argument.

    I am also reminded of a fortune cookie I once got: “People believe what they understand.” Kinda deep for chinese takeout, but I have found it to be true. If people don’t understand what you’re trying to communicate, it’s not likely they will buy what you’re selling.

    Jewels (dec12d)

  8. I love it! Good guesses all, but everyone is missing the one I thought you’d miss.

    Patterico (cc3b34)

  9. 1) belief in the truth of your argument
    2) ability to explain that belief to others

    Ron (745b77)

  10. 1 – Logical construction (consistent and valid)
    2 – Actual facts

    Scott Jacobs (90ff96)

  11. You are probably gonna say something like:

    Know your audience and tailor your argument to appeal to their perceived reality.

    j curtis (cc3cf0)

  12. 1. new information. you have to start from the assumption that most people have already made up their mind. if you want to turn the people who have already decided against you, you need something new.
    2. A demonstration that you trust the person you’re trying to persuade. That’s why we call swindler’s “confidence men.” They gain the victim’s confidence by giving theirs.

    Good question! Though I fully expect I got the wrong answers…

    Hax Vobiscum (23258e)

  13. Still missing it . . .

    Patterico (cc3b34)

  14. An ignorant audience?

    Richard (efa17d)

  15. Ah. I think I got it…

    1 – facts/information

    2 – a listener with a mind open to being persuaded.

    Scott Jacobs (90ff96)

  16. ok, I walked away and thought of a third thing. An anecdote. People like stories. Tell a story that a person can relate to and people are more likely to side with you.

    For example, ask people if they believe torture is wrong, and most of them will say “yes, absolutely, torture is a very bad thing.”

    Then tell the story of a terrorist who is known for convincing mentally unstable children to strap bombs to their chests and blow themselves up just outside of day care centers, hospitals and grocery markets. Also let them know that this man has three wives, two of them are less than 15 years of age. Then let them know that we have this man in custody, we found evidence that he had recently helped build a bomb and that that bomb was going to be used to hurt U.S. civilians on American soil. Then ask people if they believe torturing this man to gain information on this threat would be the right thing to do, and I guarantee you the number of people who agree to the torture will rise dramatically.

    Jewels (dec12d)

  17. My guess would be.
    1. State your argument
    2. State the evidence that supports that argument

    ML (14488c)

  18. A reasonable listener?

    Not Rhetorical (33803e)

  19. Maybe a better guess would be
    1. State your argument
    2. Dismantle the oppositions argument

    ML (14488c)

  20. Aha! You need an Emmanuel Goldstein! You need an opponent.

    Richard (efa17d)

  21. Jewels: Are you trying to convince people that it’s ok to torture that individual, or that it’s ok to let the government torture suspects as it sees fit?
    Remember, the debate has never been about whether to torture one particular individual, but about whether it should or should not be U.S. policy to allow torture.

    I like your story, though, and you are correct that you can fool some of the people all of the time. Your tale does reveal exactly how the right-wing noise machine went about trying to cram torture down American’s throats. We’re much too smart, as a group, for that, though.

    Hax Vobiscum (23258e)

  22. I think the trial attorney angle is throwing me off. That just makes me think about intelligent jury selection.

    So, I’m going to go with that and think of it as a hint rather than a trick.

    1. The semblance of truth.

    2. Choosing an audience that will accept the argument.

    Pendleton (7f8d26)

  23. No, I’m wrong there as well.

    Pendleton (7f8d26)

  24. Okay, now I have it,

    1. The semblance of truth.

    2. A snappy suit with a fun novelty tie!

    What’s my prize?

    Pendleton (7f8d26)

  25. 1) Credibility of presenter

    2) Conveying deep belief in the argument being presented (a prosecutor’s lust to punish the perp, a defender’s conviction of the accused’s innocence)

    Ed (52bb9a)

  26. I find these two factors persuasive:
    Long slender legs and a trust fund.

    I denounce myself.

    Perfect Sense (0922fa)

  27. The desire to believe you,

    and an argument that will let them do so.

    Machinist (c5fc28)

  28. 1. the facts.

    2. an unbiased listener.

    Without either, you’re not going to persuade that person of anything. Ever.

    Elliott (769d35)

  29. Sincerity/persistence[perception]

    Ability to demonstrate “your” argument is the better
    of the two options

    jimzinsocal (52b843)

  30. A-
    B-hamilton burger as ur opponent

    pdbuttons (bbdd05)

  31. #29,
    If that were so then no dishonest politicians or Nigerian scammers would win.

    Machinist (c5fc28)

  32. The two things I mentioned work for lawyers, politicians, salesmen, talk show hosts and con men. You don’t need truth, facts, or an impartial subject.

    1) Make them want to believe you.

    It does not matter why. it can be because you have big boobs, just so they want it to be true.

    2) Give them an excuse to believe you.

    If you do this well then they will reinforce #1 themselves. Like the victim of a con that does not want to admit they were conned so they keep sending money when everyone else can see it’s a con. Truth or facts are not important. “Gun control will save children”, this is proven false but it still sells.

    Machinist (c5fc28)

  33. All right, Patterico, I’ll play. I believe that to make a persuasive argument, you need:

    1. An overarching “story” into which your argument fits;

    2. A connection of trust with the audience so that they believe you are the right person to make that argument.

    One implication of my metasyllogism is that Rush Limbaugh cannot persuade anyone on the left: No matter how good his argument is, nobody on the left would trust him as far as he could throw him, which distance diminishes with every passing year.

    Another implication is that your argument need not be correct in order to be persuasive: Barack H. Obama had a great story to tell in November 2008, and clearly more than half the American voters connected with him. (I suspect the “connection of trust” number for Obama was much larger than his percent of the vote; many people might have trusted him but not bought his “story.”)

    I don’t know if this matches what you had in mind, but you asked what we had in mind. So there.


    Dafydd the Philosoph (db2ea4)

  34. 1. authority: the audience has to grant you the standing to hold forth on the matter
    2. group spokesmanship: the audience has to perceive you as its spokesman to the exclusion of competing spokesmen (“He’s speaking for me.”)

    E.g., Demosthenes.

    m (ca1154)

  35. Presenting a case as feasible to both sides of justice.

    Creating a hook in the case that parallels decency or morality.

    Vermont Neighbor (229b93)

  36. 1. The perception that you are authoritative on the subject.
    2. The ability to convince your targets that you are one of them.

    Well, I tried. I know what works with me. 😉

    #34 Dafydd is proven wrong all the time. I was a far lefty and once I stopped castigating Rush without ever once hearing him, and actually listened, I became a conservative. There are legions of me.

    Peg C. (48175e)

  37. 1. A presentation which is as simple and as straightforward as you can possibly make it;

    2. Respect for your audience, which will be conveyed naturally by your words and body language, and must be stronger than your love of your own words and ideas.

    I think two very important corollaries follow from the second rule: 1)To whatever extent you need your audience’s emotions and sentiments, you must evoke them — get them to arise spontaneously and not attempt to implant them. 2) You should be just as prepared and comfortable to make “the other side’s” argument.

    nk (31b2d3)

  38. 1. Principle

    2. Opposition

    Andy B (298ed5)

  39. 1. Sincerity
    2. Ability to convey points in a language the audience relates to (example; when trying to persuade AF leadership about a computer security issue it is most helpful to put it into terms/examples common to fighter/bomber pilots) I can’t imagine how difficult this must be with a jury who have 12 different backgrounds.

    voiceofreason2 (590c85)

  40. One of them, I bet most of you will figure out. The other, very few will get. Maybe only the trial lawyers.

    I’m not so sure. The law makes our strongest argument for us and to a great extent we “command when we entreat”. Authors, poets, playwrights might understand it better. The proprietor of Patterico’s Pontifications, too, lawyer or not.

    nk (31b2d3)

  41. Tits? What do I get?

    Dan Collins (4dc2da)

  42. I am coming at this from 30 years around the Military.
    1. You better have your shit together and portray it both verbally and physically.
    2. Tell the absolute truth as you know it.

    The CO of the USS Greenvilles after his submarine
    sunk the Japanese fishing boat is a good example of military explanation (not argument) at its best.
    Captain of the US AIR Airbus that went into the Hudson. Military credibility was obvious in his manner of explanation.
    Go to you tube and check out the testimony by the Delta force Senior enlisted guy arguing against Gays in the military in front of a Senate Committee. Credible, moral high ground and very believable tough guy.

    Mike (7eb702)

  43. 1. Having a persuasive argument to make.

    2. Having the ability to make it.

    Unless your opponent is your spouse and has tits. Then you’re sunk. Dan’s right there.

    Pablo (99243e)

  44. I saw an episode of one of those 20/20 type programs several years ago that showed how cult deprogrammers do their job. They kidnap the kid from the cult, throw him in a van, and then two deprogrammers violently shake the kid while screaming demands into each ear for the kid to pull his head out of his ass until the kid breaks down and returns to reality.

    I’d say that is the epitome of a job based on persuasion. I imagine that they tried several methods and settled on this one because it proved the most effective.

    j curtis (e2c0c1)

  45. I haven’t read the other comments yet…

    In order to make a persuasive argument, you need to:

    1. Have the facts on your side, because the other side will know – or will find out – if you don’t.

    2. Be convincing. At least appear that you believe in the essential rightness of your argument.

    cvproj (b1bb16)

  46. 1. Any argument at all, whether it’s correct or not.

    2. An audience dumb/ignorant enough to buy your argument.

    2Cents (1097c8)

  47. 1. An aura, or projection, of confidence and knowledge.
    2. Know who your audience is, and what are their fears, beliefs, and concerns.

    pyritedan (776486)

  48. sarcasm and insult

    boris (ecab60)

  49. 1. Money to buy yourself the victory, or public opinion to shame your opponent to surrender.

    2. Charisma and Chutzpah to lie no matter what and to get your opponent to believe your lies.

    PCD (ed31e3)

  50. I’m no lawyer, but most arguments are not before a jury carefully selected to respond to emotional spin.

    One – a clear logical foundation, passionately sustained and defended against informal fallacies.

    Two – a respectful refutation of the listener’s preconceived objections.

    I think that, with prolonged exposure, these trump mere appeals to emotion.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  51. Got it…I think

    The perception of truth

    The other side to “like” you

    winston (e11672)

  52. 1. Practice for hours at reading from the teleprompter.

    2. What else could be as important in this day and age?

    Dagwood (06c586)

  53. Play dumb.

    Playing dumb is a very effective tool to convince the masses of your point.

    For example. If you wish to blame Obama for the earmark problem, play dumb and pretend that you don’t know that the Republican Senator for Mississippi is the #1 earmark lover according to stats.

    Also play dumb and pretend Obama vowed to bring earmark levels down to zero, or “get rid of,” or “eliminate” them. NEVER tell your audience that he actually vowed to keep earmarks under 7.8 billion.

    Play dumb and you will succeed.

    Andrew (8ef6ed)

  54. Andy proves his theory without a shred of a doubt – his beclowning continues apace. Andy, still want to discuss your Nobel prize winning economist/Enron advisor Krugman, or are you still running away from that one, just like all the others?

    Dmac (49b16c)

  55. Andrew – there is no need for you to “play dumb”. You appear to come by that quite naturally.

    JD (e43198)

  56. The classic answer is, Vir bonus, peritus dicendi.

    Simon Kenton (19874b)

  57. Debate has a high reason content, and very low emotion content. Argument has a much lower reason content and a much higher emotion content. A fight is at the other end of the scale from debate. Very low reason content and very high emotion content.

    Let me see if I can remember. Since reason doesn’t play a huge part of an argument, we can throw out facts. A since emotion plays such a huge part, I would say,


    tyree (926e0a)

  58. I initially thought about facts and logic, then was thinking back to my Myers-Briggs ‘type’ training. Some people are just not fact-based, and need to ‘feel’ that you are right. My answers are pretty vague, but I’m willing to get more specific if I’m in the ballpark.

    1 – picking a winnable argument, given your audience
    2 – supporting that argument in a way that your audience will understand / appreciate

    50-plus posts, and almost every one is an honest attempt to answer the question, save one attempt to hijack with talking points a thread that you are going to refer to ‘again and again.’ You really have to consider what value this adds.

    carlitos (3f0da9)

  59. 1. A believable argument.

    2. A means to make a jury ignore your opposition’s argument.

    Clarence Darrow used this technique. In a time when smoking was allowed in the courtroom, he lit up a cigarette during the prosecution’s final arguments. The ash grew longer and longer and didn’t fall off. He had put a length of wire in the cigarette. The jury became fixated on the cigarette ash, waiting for it to fall. The didn’t hear a thing. Finally whent the prosecutor finished his summation, Darrow flicked the ash off, and began his (defendants) summation.

    He won.

    Corky Boyd (9cb7c3)

  60. 1. Being right.
    2. Make the argument in such a way that it flatters or strokes the vanity of the party you are trying to persuade.

    gp (72be5d)

  61. Dan and tyree have a pretty solid point.

    JD (e43198)

  62. A ———
    B. Define the terms of the argument.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  63. 1. A preponderance of proof of your position,
    2. And effective appeal to interest, which at it most fundamental is grounded in fear.

    Dusty (c6cd1d)

  64. 1. A believable set of facts (veracity not required).

    2. Emotional connection of the audience to either the argument the above facts (sic) support, or some person or ideal the argument will favor.

    In support of the second part of this, consider Bob Packwood’s chasing women around a desk as misogynistic, but Bill Clinton’s morally equal behavior as acceptable.

    Take a jury considering a given scenario and tie it into an outcome the jury would support, i.e., O.J. Simpson, and the “facts” will fall right where the audience wants them.

    NeoCon_1 (d098d0)

  65. You must get control of the opponent’s thumb.

    spongeworthy (c2e8fe)

  66. 1. Credibility. If you are not credible you are done.
    2. Know your audience.

    Joe (17aeff)

  67. 1 self mastery
    2 Passion
    Now come back and tell us your answers, Mr P.

    quasimodo (edc74e)

  68. Wait until I can call in and ask Rush :)

    EricPWJohnson (c9d459)

  69. 1. Ability to ‘read’ the audience response.
    2. Willingness to elaborate upon and reinforce anything that elicits the desired response, while avoiding themes that have a neutral or negative response.

    Hmmm, I can’t read your reactions to this wisdom…

    Jo Med (30eabc)

  70. I’m liking dusty’s #2, though I’d have left off the notation on fear (as an unnecessary narrowing and complicating conditional, even if provisionally accurate).

    Interest is enough or a showing of aligned interest should win the day.

    sdferr (8643ba)

  71. Common sense.

    V.R. Stull (d7fc75)

  72. I think a pair of C or D cup bolt-ons and shapely legs makes any argument more persuasive.

    JD (546b71)

  73. 1)show your position can never be false, or else…

    2)show your opponent’s position can never be true

    Short of 1 or 2 every argument will remain arguable. Which is a major life’s blood of a preponderance blog threads. Commentors may come to persuade, but mainly stay for the arguing. Or to engage in some very entertaining insult exchanges. No liquids in mouth while reading…reads the sign over the monitor.

    allan (bd6acb)

  74. “I think a pair of C or D cup bolt-ons and shapely legs makes any argument more persuasive.”

    JD – Crying, nagging and withholding sex add elements to persuasiveness scale.

    daleyrocks (5d22c0)

  75. The ability to channel dead babies.

    drjohn (5fb09c)

  76. I think you were headed the right direction when you were thinking there is just one necessary factor; credibility with the target audience is in and of itself sufficient.

    You don’t have to be right, you don’t need facts, you don’t even need a rhyme or compelling narrative. If you are credible with the audience, it they will believe you. Start arguing a point unsupported by evidence or facts, and you become less persuasive, not becuse of the bad facts, but because you have lost your credibility.

    Or something like that.

    theBruce (e99bfb)

  77. #2 was on the right track, but didn’t go far enough:

    1. lots of guns
    2. lots of ammo

    redc1c4 (9c4f4a)

  78. Seems this blog now has a facination with all things Republican. We currently have a President who is selling this nation down the river. Would seem any freedom minded American would concentrate, if they had an information outlet such as this, on the activities of those who threaten our freedom with policies ending freemarkets and imposing Government in areas where not should exist. But, Patterico seems more interested in the foibles of M. Steele and R. Limbaugh. Perhaps a secret admirer of B. Hussein Obama?

    Zelsdorf Ragshaft III (e461c0)

  79. 1) Some facts;

    2) Powerpoint (computer graphics).

    Alta Bob (bc2317)

  80. “We currently have a President who is selling this nation down the river.”

    Zelsdorf – He has a fantastic ability to lie with a straight face.

    daleyrocks (5d22c0)

  81. Full knowledge of the facts about the argument and through understanding off all other points of views. Then present it well dressed and well rehearsed.

    Richard (f7470d)

  82. I like where theBruce is going with audience credibility. Consider today’s celebrity-driven culture.

    I know it’s true, because Matt Damon told me so.
    It’s a LIE because I heard it on faux news.

    carlitos (3f0da9)

  83. But, Patterico seems more interested in the foibles of M. Steele and R. Limbaugh. Perhaps a secret admirer of B. Hussein Obama?

    It’s worse than that, Zelsdorf Ragshaft III. I have it, on good inforamtion, that Patterico is the third of three clones. Whose, I am not at liberty to say. But the even worse news is that there are a lot more tripsychs out there.

    nk (31b2d3)

  84. Most here are assuming they know who their audience is going to be.

    I’m going on the assumption that the “audience” Patterico is referring to, is actually an average sampling of people. In other words, not necessarily of one ideology.

    Based on that assumption, I have to say that the two most important factors in making a persuasive argument are having the facts, and being prepared to back them up.

    Oiram (983921)

  85. 1. Surprise
    2. Fear
    3. Ruthless efficiency

    kaf (16e0b5)

  86. Seems this blog now has a facination with all things Republican.

    The above was posted in this topic here on this page. Awesome.

    carlitos (3f0da9)

  87. Channeling Simon Kenton (#55):

    1. A sincere, logical, fact-based position.

    2. The ability to communicate it to others.

    Anon (eb4fed)

  88. #61 Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R:

    A ———
    B. Define the terms of the argument.

    Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner, folks!

    The Soviets have won the argument about socialism/communism, by defining the argument as how much, rather than yay or nay.

    Not that they are around to enjoy their victory, but the idea of “how much” rather than “yes/no” continues to dominate the political arena today, more than twenty years after they also managed to demonstrate quite convincingly to anyone listening that it doesn’t work.

    EW1 (e27928)

  89. 1. Exclude the middle
    2. Apply the slippery slope.

    Pious Agnostic (291f9a)

  90. Comment by Oiram — 3/12/2009 @ 10:22 am

    Rich! ROTFLMAO Rich!

    AD - RtR/OS (6b685f)

  91. (1) A smile.
    (2) A gun.

    Emperor7 (0c8c2c)

  92. #89 Back atcha!

    Oiram (983921)

  93. If you have a gun, smiling is strictly optional.

    AD - RtR/OS (6b685f)

  94. This is fun 😉

    Logic and language?

    Pons Asinorum (87c424)

  95. I’m liking dusty’s #2, though I’d have left off the notation on fear (as an unnecessary narrowing and complicating conditional, even if provisionally accurate).

    [Comment by sdferr — 3/12/2009 @ 8:19 am]

    You may be right. I might have just as easily qualified #1 and/or #2 with issues of likability and rhetorical ability (though they aren’t absolutely necessary, e.g., logic can replace rhetoric), so I left those subsumed in the main criteria of evidence and interest. Fear, likewise, is certainly inherent in the appeal to interest.

    I didn’t, however, because I saw Patterico’s question to be not the narrow one of only persuading an audience as to a position, but additionally to act on that position. With that being the case, I thought about evidence (positive and/or negative) and interest (positive and/or negative), asking myself if a mix of any of those would all lead to the result.

    I let many possibilities run through my mind, say all those relating to each right in the Bill of Rights, the Truther argument, various aspects of ACORN’s activities as well as environmentalism, and even the something as simple as checking your oil and tires before going on vacation, for the motivation to action, and it seemed to me they’re all based on negative affects on interest. As such, I felt positive affects wrt interest are of less concern if the intent for argument is action.

    That’s why I added the qualification. Maybe I am in the mindset at the moment that blinds me to positive appeals to interest and looking at these in the limited way. I’d be happy to entertain different look at it.

    Dusty (c6cd1d)

  96. 1) Frame the argument in accord with your listener’s identity.

    2) Make the opposing argument better than your opponent can (Clarence Darrow’s recommendation, IIRC), then trump it.

    ras (20bd5b)

  97. I think that PyriteDan, Carlitos, and Joe are probably on the right track for #2. Most people are assuming that you have to somehow pick your audience (people most likely to agree or most malleable), or manipulate or sucker your audience. But what’s the use of persuading only the most persuadable?

    The question is about making the best persuasive argument. To do that you need:

    1. The firmest grasp on the point you want to convey (so that you can express it with clarity and certainly – UNLIKE Mr. Steele, for instance.)

    and 2. A solid understanding of your audience, so that you can build your argument in the way most likely to address and overcome their objections.

    I do this many times a week. The hard part for politicians is to believe anything two days in a row so that you can know what you’re arguing for. The hardest part for most of us is knowing our audience, because…

    1. we prefer to talk to people who agree with us.
    2. we find it easier (and more fun) to mock opposing points of view.
    3. we can’t understand why anyone would disagree with our position unless they are ignorant, retarded, or venal.
    4. and once we’ve made our point one time we assume that everyone ought to have understood it – or that understanding it must automatically mean accepting it.

    Well, Patterico? When are you going to relieve the suspense?

    Gesundheit (47b0b8)

  98. And anyone who disagrees with me is an idiot and a tool of the DemocRATs.

    Gesundheit (47b0b8)

  99. 1. Facts – or the illusion of facts
    2. Confidence – or the illusion of confidence

    Having these two should be sufficient tools to enter into a persuasive discussion.

    Brotherico (5c621d)

  100. I haven’t read any of the comments, so I apologize if I’m repeating something someone else has said, but I wanted my answer to be un-affected by, umm, persuasive arguments others might have offered.
    You must yourself believe in your argument.
    You must frame your argument in terms that your audience can relate to their own lives, using analogies and comparisons that do so.

    Beldar (b95a76)

  101. A hook.

    That is, a framework or storyline in which your argument is easy to follow and remember. It’s helpful if it has the appearance of making good sense.

    tim maguire (4a98f0)

  102. a reason for your argument, and evidence to back it up.

    Paul Johnson (4e97ba)

  103. I’m still liking your analysis dusty, evermore as you expand and clarify it.

    On the positive front, I can offer that we see the effects of self-congratulatory righteousness thrown into the mix of motivators at least in some opinion abroad . People might in some instances see that their own obvious interests may appear to others as overly selfish, insufficiently other-directed or however we should put it (altruistic? feh!) and in consequence look to frame their choice in the cloak of “doing good”, rather than ground it in as matter of fear. Or in the alternative, there may in fact be no particular source of fear on view for the “persuadee”. Then what, I wonder? Interest can still stand in.

    sdferr (8643ba)

  104. “1. Surprise
    2. Fear”

    kaf – The Spanish Inquisition? No one expects that!

    daleyrocks (5d22c0)

  105. “in as” — haste, my apologies. Strike “in”, keep “as”.

    sdferr (8643ba)

  106. 1. Know your target. You need to tailor your argument to best persuade them.
    2. Presentation style. You need to convey confidence/knowledge of the material.

    kaf (16e0b5)

  107. 102 – and cushions. So there are 4 factors…

    kaf (16e0b5)

  108. Obama…do what the hell you want…don’t bother to persuade

    winston (e11672)

  109. (1) Uh…
    (2) Um…..

    Emperor7 (0c8c2c)

  110. 1) 9,000 hidden earmarks


    2) $7.7 billion

    Vermont Neighbor (229b93)

  111. Defining the terms of the argument is always a good idea.

    I’ve found that’s an effective argument-ender, in fact.

    Ask someone: “What, specifically, would it take to convince you?”

    If they can’t or won’t answer, you know you’re completely wasting your time. If they do answer, you spare yourself whatever effort might have been expended on facts or logic that the other side won’t find persuasive.

    You might be surprised at how many people don’t know what it would take to persuade anew, as they aren’t clear enough on what convinced them in the first place.

    What would it take to make me believe Obama is a socialist?
    1. He’d have to appoint people to key positions in the Treasury, Fed, etc. who have a record of advocating socialism.
    2. He’d have to spurn Wall Street and, most important, it’s money.
    3. He’d have to say that all the things he’s said and written over the years in support of free markets was in error.

    Always good to clarify what it would take…

    Hax Vobiscum (4012df)

  112. #109 Hax, I guess that’s kind of like them trying to convince us that privatizing is the way to go.

    ‘Cept for…. 1. Military
    2. Fire Dept.
    3. Police Dept.
    4. Roads
    5. Courts
    6. Sheriff Dept.

    Etc…. Etc……. Etc……….

    Oiram (983921)

  113. And our ratio of threadjack attempts to honest answers remains at a remarkable 1:54

    carlitos (3f0da9)

  114. #111 Aw come on Carlitos, make sure you do the proper count and not overlook your comrades “threadjacking”.

    Oiram (983921)

  115. 1. Credibility
    2. An ally

    Mongerel (41aa3d)

  116. Oiram, showing us yet another of your logical fallacies on a thread on persuasion was pretty funny.

    SPQR (72771e)

  117. Comment by Oiram — 3/12/2009 @ 1:59

    Many communities within the U.S. are protected quite professionally and effectively by volunteer fire departments.
    The early networks of roads in the country were built by private interests (toll roads),
    as was the Erie Canal – the largest infrastructure project in the country up to that time.

    AD - RtR/OS (6b685f)

  118. Comment by Oiram — 3/12/2009 @ 2:22 pm

    Well, give or take! :)

    Al Campanis (3f0da9)

  119. Really enjoyed roy’s answer at # 3, but think gp @ 7:33’s the closest. My two cents:

    1)A simple and easily understood line of argument (being right while, um, correct, IMO isn’t necessary to persuade)

    2) A way to make your audience feel smarter, more compassionate, etc. than others for accepting it (appeal to vanity or pride)

    no one you know (65b7aa)

  120. The times I have been persuaded and actually re-thought or even changed my view was affected by people who a) first evidenced respect for me and my position (although they disagreed with it), and b)sincerely believed in and were wholly committed to their argument.

    Without the first part in motion, there would have been no chance of being persuasive.

    If there weren’t the second part, why on earth would I listen in the first place?

    Dana (137151)

  121. I’m surprised at the popularity of tautology here.

    The question is, essentially: What makes an effective argument?

    So many answered, essentially, “An effective argument.”

    Pat even tried, it seems, to discourage that by framing the question as what “factors” you must have in your argument.

    Also a lot of paranoia, it seems, e.g. many focused on how to persuade the gullible.

    Hax Vobiscum (23258e)

  122. Deconstructing Beldar’s second point, and having read the thread to see if anyone has mentioned it, you have to have an audience open to persuasion.

    Said another way, the audience has to have some intellectually honesty. Without that, there is no way to persuade an adversarial audience.

    Try to persuade a pro-abortion advocate that their argument about not letting the right force their morality on others is exactly what the strong anti-abortion advocate feels the state has done. Further try to convince them (the pro-choicers) that if you accept the initial premise of the pro-lifers that human life begins at conception, then abortion is tantamount to homicide. The converse, to a lesser extent is also true.

    bains (f104b8)

  123. #115 Yes AD, privatizing our fire dept sounds like a great idea!

    I’m sure it would work just fine knowing that you paid your monthly due, but your 4 neighbors around you didn’t.

    Safe bet no harm could come from that!

    Who monitors those roads now AD? I’m sure private business wont cut any corners in safety maintenance just to satisfy their share holders right?

    Oiram (983921)

  124. As a postscript to #120, I am merely using abortion to make a point. I tried explaining the later to a pro-choicer who summarily rejected the premise. The point being, I was not trying to argue the premise, rather that if the premise is valid, then the argument is also valid – she, being intellectually dishonest on this topic, would have none of it.

    bains (f104b8)

  125. Indeed.

    Never expect fact and logic to persuade someone who arrived at their original opinion without the benefit of either.

    That’s why it’s always good to ask: “What would it take to persuade you.”

    It’s not all that unusual for people to tell you straight up that nothing could persuade them, nor is it unlikely the question will cause people to change the subject. It ends up being rare that people are willing to identify what facts or logic could persuade them.

    But why bother with people who can’t or won’t?

    Hax Vobiscum (23258e)

  126. But why bother with people who can’t or won’t?

    Comment by Hax Vobiscum — 3/12/2009 @ 3:21 pm

    Because sometimes Hax, a little piece of logic does enters their brain……

    Not enough to change their opinion mind you, but enough that they might keep their mouth shut on future discussions and persuasions, especially pertaining to their specific argument.

    Oiram (983921)

  127. Oiram, #121, actually there is an emerging trend toward privatizing toll roads.

    SPQR (72771e)

  128. Oiram, #121, actually there is an emerging trend toward privatizing toll roads.

    Comment by SPQR — 3/12/2009 @ 3:35 pm

    That’s one way to help the auto makers recover!

    Oiram (983921)

  129. Another decent thread on the way to being trolled to death. Patterico, is that an effective argument for putting these two assholes in moderation?

    nk (31b2d3)

  130. You who respond to them or in any way acknowledge their presence are the ones that make it possible for them to continue. You don’t like these trolls?

    Ignore them. They will go away. Promise.

    steve miller (0fb51f)

  131. Does “Don’t feed the trolls!” count as a persuasive argument?

    What about if I point out that they’re just immature narcissists looking for attention and will soon wander off if they don’t get it here?

    What if I point out that other commenters do not appreciate those who bring the trolls back by offering attention?

    What if I further note that feeding the trolls locks them into their current actions, like a drug addict (lotta research to say that that’s not just a metaphor, either) and therefore hurts them at a stage in their life when they need to get past adolescence while they still can?

    ras (20bd5b)

  132. But, Patterico seems more interested in the foibles of M. Steele and R. Limbaugh. Perhaps a secret admirer of B. Hussein Obama?

    It’s worse than that, Zelsdorf Ragshaft III. I have it, on good inforamtion, that Patterico is the third of three clones. Whose, I am not at liberty to say. But the even worse news is that there are a lot more tripsychs out there.

    Comment by nk — 3/12/2009 @ 10:17 am

    (nk’s response to #77)

    Is it jealousy nk? Or just usual hypocrisy?

    I mean that your attempts at thread jacking don’t work?

    I was responding to Hax FYI like you were to Zelsdorf Ragshaft II.

    Oiram (983921)

  133. True words, ras.

    It’s not that I mind infantilism or argument for the sake of argument. But really, I want to have intelligent argument that examines the facts. And the trolls just keep disrupting the argument with their “ME ME ME!” statements.

    I’d ban them in a New York minute if only to keep the sanity of the threads.

    steve miller (0fb51f)

  134. But it does illustrate the point, doesn’t it?

    1) Facts
    2) Empathetic connection with the audience – This is why this is important to me as well as why it’s important to you

    steve miller (0fb51f)

  135. I say we ignore the Whine Club. Maybe then it will stop endlessly, pathetically moaning about “trolls.”

    Hax Vobiscum (23258e)

  136. Now that I look at my post, it does seem a bit cynical.

    I admit that while I was writing it (since everyone’s talking so much about Obama lately), I was thinking of how in the world Obama, a man with so many pieces of history he and his wife refused to provide (no, not talking about the BC) and an experience portfolio thin as his oversensitive thin skin, plus pretty much a bunch of speeches saying “hopenchange”, managed to effectively persuade 52% of US voters to select him as president. He wasn’t right, but he did a good job persuading.

    no one you know (65b7aa)

  137. steve miller,

    Yes, trolls do seem to be on an endless quest to prove their superiority, don’t they? Since that’s an inner matter – they’re mostly trying to prove it to their own selves – they miss the heart of many args and fail to mature in their understanding.

    But Patterico asked us what works, not what doesn’t, so I guess that’s a bit of a tangent today. Perhaps a future post might cover the “what’s the best way of kneecapping your own argument” question, just for balance.

    p.s. One of the best ways – I’ve tested this a few times – of silencing trolls is to talk about them but never to them. We’d need to get everyone to go along for it to work, but it’s ever so much fun as the trolls start to crack under the strain. They think they won’t, they swear they won’t, but like all addicts, they eventually do.

    Back to work, now.

    ras (20bd5b)

  138. Well, the problem with agreeing to talk about them but never to them is that some people will simply not follow this advice.

    I of course find it endlessly chortle-inducing to ignore them. It usually takes me about 2-3 words in a response to figure out who it is; I scroll to the end of the comment and see one of two names I despise & then continue to scroll past.

    The dilemma is if someone responds to a troll (bad!) with something pretty funny or witty (good!). Then I’m conflicted.

    steve miller (0fb51f)

  139. Comment by Hax Vobiscum — 3/12/2009 @ 4:01 pm

    We can’t ignore everyone Hax 😉

    Plus see my comment at #124

    Not enough to change their opinion mind you, but enough that they might keep their mouth shut on future discussions and persuasions, especially pertaining to their specific argument.

    Comment by Oiram — 3/12/2009 @ 3:34 pm

    Oiram (983921)

  140. The Dynamic Duo of Douchebaggery returns …

    JD (6864d5)

  141. #138 Here let me help you DJ. “To the rat cave!”.

    Oiram (983921)

  142. You 2 are gerbil cavers …

    JD (6864d5)

  143. There are two questions here:

    1. What are the two most important factors in making a persuasive argument?

    2. What must you have going for you in order to convince your audience?

    I think these are two somewhat different questions in common parlance; I’m going to answer question two, limiting it to two factors (which I believe to be the only ones absolutely necessary), and I’m going to do so on foundational grounds.

    I have persuaded myself to a reasonable (but not total) certainty that my answer is right, and I think it is only a fraction less likely that my answers match our host’s.

    The two things you *must* have:

    1. Contact with your audience.

    You can’t convince anyone of anything if you don’t have contact with them. If I want Bernie Madoff to ship me whatever remains of his ill-gotten gains, I must make some contact with him. I cannot persuade a jury with my brilliant closing argument that I am giving at 2:15 a.m. to the stupid cats or sleeping wife.

    2. An argument that your audience can understand.

    If I go by Mr. Madoff’s cell and ask him to give me large bricks of hidden, stolen money, and do so in Tamil, I cannot achieve my goals this way. (Yes, they’re remote anyway, but speaking in Tamil is a dealbreaker.) If I carefully explain to the cats that, in fact, the food they are investigating and licking is in fact my food, and not theirs, their lack of English comprehension will make my quest useless; loud noises are in fact much more understandable to them.

    Whether it’s “Give me your stuff,” or “Find the defendant guilty,” or “Can I get administrative access to the tags over on TJTB?”, you’ve got to have access to the audience, and an understandable argument.

    Other items suggested are good tips, but are not necessary. Your audience may despise you a great deal, but may still be persuadable; I have prosecuted a number of persuasive people who were disliked by their audience, said audience nonetheless being persuaded to hand over money and property.

    Contact and understandability are always necessary.

    JRM (de6363)

  144. We’ll have to see what Professor Frey says is the right answer.

    steve miller (0fb51f)

  145. I of course find it endlessly chortle-inducing to ignore them. It usually takes me about 2-3 words in a response to figure out who it is; I scroll to the end of the comment and see one of two names I despise & then continue to scroll past.
    Comment by steve miller — 3/12/2009 @ 4:24 pm

    Used to respond to trolls lots more than I do now. Had an idea they’d just slink away if all of us together kinda ganged up on them w/ our (admittedly superior) conservative arguments. Now I agree w/ lots of other posters here that they live on that stuff.

    Not to say I don’t succumb to the “surely he’ll be reasonable this one time” temptation (and how, sometimes) but mostly it’s more amusing to talk past them. They don’t get the response and I get the chance I never get IRL to be rude and dismissive. Works all around.

    The dilemma is if someone responds to a troll (bad!) with something pretty funny or witty (good!). Then I’m conflicted.

    So true. It’s OK when someone else does it b/c we have so many wits around here. Am much better at appreciating wit than creating it so I sit back and watch it happen. LOL

    no one you know (65b7aa)

  146. I think just talking around them as if they don’t exist is best. Generally speaking, their arguments boil down to “I will say anything to disrupt this discussion because there is no memory on the Internet.” When called upon their contradictory information, they don’t answer honestly or truthfully & just make something else up.

    So responding to them directly is really insanity (doing the same things but expecting different results).

    steve miller (0fb51f)

  147. We’ll have to see what Professor Frey says is the right answer.

    Apparently the real secret to persuasive argument is to be Patrick Frey!

    ras (20bd5b)

  148. Dear NOYK, this is the best thing said re the matter. I will refrain from naming it’s author but suffice it to say, I simply adore irony. :)

    But why bother with people who can’t or won’t?

    Dana (137151)

  149. I have no idea what the answer is, but I’m sure it’s lawyerly and not necessarily applicable to the general public. But as to the issues of trolls, I can say this: sometimes they can be made to cry uncle. I’m not sure if this should make people more or less inclined to address those they deem trolls, but there it is.

    SEK (072055)

  150. I am still not sure of what the correct answer is, but many of the comments seem to support the belief that facts can win an argument, which they cannot. Arguments contain too much emotion for reason to prevail.

    tyree (926e0a)

  151. I have no idea what the answer is, but I’m sure it’s lawyerly and not necessarily applicable to the general public.

    It is true that lawyers’ argument are, if they are wise, appeals to authority. Law and precedent. That’s what I meant by “we command when we entreat” in my earlier comment.

    But I presumed that Patterico meant something else and I answered accordingly in my first comment.

    nk (31b2d3)

  152. Comment by Dana — 3/12/2009 @ 5:44 pm

    Yep, exactly. LOL

    no one you know (65b7aa)

  153. It is true that lawyers’ argument are, if they are wise, appeals to authority. Law and precedent. That’s what I meant by “we command when we entreat” in my earlier comment.

    I think we’re on the same page here. I didn’t mean my comment snarkily. It’s just that lawyers must take measure of the jury they have, whereas writing on the internet — i.e. interacting with an audience of strangers you haven’t had a hand in selecting — is likely to require a less lawyerly specific skill-set.

    SEK (072055)

  154. 1) Likable Personality
    2) Timing

    Apogee (f4320c)

  155. I didn’t mean my comment snarkily.

    I did not take it that way.

    For illustration, I have had judges give me rulings they did not want to give me because I persuaded them that the law left them no other choice. But that was rare. Many more judges gladly gave me rulings in my favor, or against me, secure that the law was on their side.

    But that is coercive or, if you prefer, “the appeal to authority fallacy”. I stick with my first comment which has to do with getting people to think what you want them to think and do what you want them to do when they are free not to do either.

    nk (31b2d3)

  156. Hard to pick just two, but how about this:

    1) A plausible argument that can be delivered confidently in terms that are easy to understand

    2) The ability to make the other side feel good about themselves or avoiding guilt for buying into your argument (an emotional hook).

    SDGuy (fb3fa8)

  157. Sexist misogynistic pigs

    JD (abe6ab)

  158. My answers here.

    Patterico (cc3b34)

  159. And you know, it’s funny: the discussion about trolls is right on point.

    As you’ll see.

    Patterico (cc3b34)

  160. How about :
    (1) A pointing shaky finger and
    (2) A straight face.

    Emperor7 (0c8c2c)

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