Here I am ready to hit the tennis court with a friend. But I am hindered by a magician claiming that with a few chemicals he can make my grass grow, brighten its greenness, and kill all weeds. 99% of them, of course. I am versed enough in persuasion. I do it for a living, after all. I have to persuade people that the Gospel is more beautiful than they ever imagined. In most cases, my job is simple. So, I listened to this fellow try to sell me something that I have absolutely zero interest in. “This is a special deal for you.” Ok. I’ve heard this one before. This is the “we advertise an absurdly high price, so that we can offer you our regular price masqueraded as ‘Discount’ ” persuasion tactic. He looks around my house. Like a detective he looks for clues to use in his favor. There is my new baby. He tries to make me feel special because there is new life in my home and now I am therefore worthy to receive this magnificent, once-in-a-lifetime deal.
Then, there’s the promise of transforming my not so attractive front yard into Eden. “If you start with these chemicals now, in 30-90 days all weeds will be gone and your grass will be coveted in this entire neighborhood. But the chemicals are necessary because they combine these two ingredients: _______________ & ______________.
I should have paid more attention in Chemistry class.
We are all trying to persuade others of something. Even if we are not forceful we hope that others will reflect our thinking in a small way.
But persuasion is hard. That gentleman tried his best, but all I could think of was heading to court to show off my ridiculously weak serve. He had ten minutes. He gave his best shot, but the odds were against him. He pushed me at an emotional level. He tried to appeal to aesthetics. He appealed to my bank account. The future looked bright and colorful and very green. In fact, I can’t say all his efforts were for naught. In the end, I promised to give him a call in the morning; a call to say No. But he still persuaded me to engage him once more, even to give him the bad news. Still, he has me for a few more minutes with the hope that he might persuade me of his product.
Persuasion is not easy. The car salesman thrives. He thrives because he is not afraid to fail. He has failed many times. But failing ten times and succeeding once is all it takes to make a few thousand dollars worth of commission. And failing lost him nothing.
Persuasion is good for the soul. It’s the fulfillment of rhetoric.
Doug Jones puts it this way:
Persuasion is a terribly strange thing. It has to overcome our personality types, our histories, our ages, all our past friends and safe influences, and our willingness to reconsider. We dismiss books and authors for lacking the right feel or for not sounding like our friends. It’s an impossible task. Persuasion is magic or more like an unbelievable accident. We have to be standing at just the right intersection at the exact moment of time, tilting our head in just one direction to see what we need to see. It’s astounding we’re ever persuaded of anything new. I guess that’s why most of us tend to stick forever with views we embraced in high school or college.
The lawn salesman had me at the wrong time. He caught me utterly distracted. My mind wasn’t open to hear about his product. But he tried. He persisted. He believed. He failed. But the next door neighbor bought it. Persuasion eventually makes a convert.