It happened again this evening in a conversation with five other people where it appeared that these people automatically disagreed with what I had to say. I spoke of specific things of historical importance as a counter-argument to something that had just been presented and, as usual, people argued vehemently against what I was saying.
The statement that I challenged was that the world was in a state of war and that people were being killed in vast numbers. To me this was utter nonsense, and I responded that we live in a time of astonishing peace. Haven’t you any sense of history?, I said. In World War Two, people were being killed at a rate of five thousand per day for years, and today if a single American soldier gets killed it makes the national news. Another annoying assertion I made was that Genghis Khan and his sons killed a third of the people in Asia and Europe. We live in an astonishingly peaceful 21st century, so far.
I suppose my statement was a bit harsh, but my current point is that it was rejected, and the people present seemed to be miffed that I had said such unpleasant things. Even if my facts were accurate, at least generally accurate, they didn’t want to hear such things.
What I learned from the evening’s discussion was something that I should have learned on my first day in school. You must say things in a way that people will agree with or they will disagree, and if they argue they will become entrenched in whatever they said in their first statement. Perhaps I was partially aware of my problem from tonight’s discussion because I had purchased the Wooden publisher’s book Trivium, and had intended to get started studying it after finishing Quadrivium. Now it seems that I should face my more serious life problem and jump directly to Trivium book V, Rhetoric, and learn how to talk to people in a way that they will understand and accept.
About this time Debbie, realizing I was interested in rhetoric, brought some books over to me from our personal library: Modern Rhetoric, by Brooks & Warren, How to Argue and Win Every Time by Gerry Spence, How to talk with practically anybody about practically anything, by Barbara Walters, Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric by Ward Farnsworth, Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent by Wayne C. Booth, Pre-suasion by Robert Cialdini, and The Rhetoric of Aristotle by Lane Cooper. Okay, there’s a year’s work just piled on my desk. Did I mention I have a helpmate?
In addition to reading and digesting all of this rhetoric stuff, I must change my behavior. Okay.