I only beat my dad at the game of pool once. He had stage 4 cancer at the time, so it probably doesn’t count. My pool technique is simply flawed: I like to hit the cue ball hard, sending balls rocketing across the table toward the pocket with a loud crack. It’s satisfying, when it works, but more often than not, the ball hits the pocket so forcibly it bounces out. My dad’s style was markedly different. With quiet confidence, he hit the cue ball softly and strategically and would clear the table before my eyes.
The art of persuasion is a bit like billiards; finesse beats force. It’s easy to imagine the opposite is true. I’ll admit I’ve daydreamed about delivering a hard-hitting speech packed with statistics and elegant phases to family members or friends who immediately cast aside their long held beliefs convinced that my position is the one right path. In real life, such mighty oratory is often met with defensiveness or disengagement. Hit the ball too hard and it bounces out of the pocket. Rousing speeches are better for stirring the faithful to action than for convincing the unconverted.
The new Republican National Committee Growth and Opportunity Council report recommendations seem to understand this. While the report is not without controversy, there are some insights worth considering about how to reach women. The GOP needs to do a better job listening and making connections with women and they “need to talk about people and families, not just numbers and statistics…women need to hear what our motive is — why it is that we want to create a better future for our families and how our policies will affect the lives of their loved ones.”
This is advice Republicans need to hear and internalize: Persuading women requires listening, making connections, asking thoughtful questions, using analogies, and providing examples in addition to statistics.
Too often, Republicans dismiss the emotional arguments on the Left as inferior to arguments based solely on reason. Yet as Aristotle wrote, effective rhetoric requires more than iron-clad logic. One needs ethos, a speaker with credibility, pathos, an argument that makes an emotional connection, and logos, reason. Facts and figures aren’t enough. An effective speaker must connect with the audience in an authentic way and present an argument that speaks to both heart and mind.
When Americans were polled about which candidate “cared about people like them” after the 2012 election, President Obama came out far ahead of his opponent, particularly among single women, 67 percent of whom cast their vote for the incumbent.