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Da Yes Si Things the Way Aye Do? Where Good Fiction Meets Bad Persuasion

Da Yes Si Things the Way Aye Do? Where Good Fiction Meets Bad Persuasion

Dialogue is defined as "a conversation between two or more people as a feature of a book, play, or movie." Creative writers learn that for dialogue to be convincing, each character must have a unique voice.

Let's contrast that with a famous work described as a "dialogue" - Plato's Republic. Here is an excerpt, translated by Benjamin Jowett. It is from the Allegory of the Cave, and is on its surface a dialogue between Socrates and Glaucon.

And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only see the shadows?

Yes, he said.

And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them?

Very true.

And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other side, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from the passing shadow?

No question, he replied.

To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.

That is certain.

Had I written something like that for my creative writing classes I would have been ridiculed. "Are you writing a dialogue or a monologue," I would have been asked. From a literary perspective, Glaucon is not really a distinct character - he agrees with everything Socrates says. In this way, he is nearly indistinguishable from Cephalus, Polemarchus, Thrasymachus, and Adeimantus. Apart from their colorful names, their role in the work consists almost entirely of telling Socrates "You got that right."

So, from the perspective of writing convincing dialogue, would you agree that Plato is crap? If your answer is "yes," of course, we emerge from the shadowy cave where "convincing dialogue" refers to whether the dialogue seems realistic to the less-abstracted world of using dialogue to convince.

In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie advises us to get the other person saying "yes, yes," immediately. "Begin by emphasizing - and keep on emphasizing - the things on which you agree.... It's like the movement of a billiard ball. Propel in one direction, and it takes some force to deflect it; far more force to send it back in the opposite direction."

Dr. Robert Cialdini refers to this principle as consistency, which he considers to be one of the weapons of influence. Once we establish the idea that someone is a person we tend to agree with, we are generally more open to hearing their perspective on other topics, and perhaps more willing to change our own opinion.

So if you want to improve your skill at negotiating, always try to find as many ways to agree with people as possible, no matter how small. If, as a result, you find yourself in more conversations that would not pass literary muster if written verbatim, don't worry. One advantage of real life is that your dialogues can be convincing without being convincing.

Let Them Talk Themselves Into It

Let Them Talk Themselves Into It

To Get Agreement, Be Agreeable

To Get Agreement, Be Agreeable