[Content note: mention of road accidents, and death of children]
Now more than ever, we on the Left need to change people’s attitudes towards the poor and marginalised. Persuasion has three parts:
- Why should you listen to me?
- Here are the facts.
- But let me tell you a story…
(Why should you listen to me about this? Because I’m a writer and I study the structure of stories. Also, because this pattern has stood the test of time: it was set out by Aristotle in 350BCE.)
Who’s speaking: You. Or not. Don’t assume your job is to speak up for the oppressed, if you’re part of the oppressing group. That generally results in speaking over them. People won’t listen, and they won’t have heard from oppressed folk either. Instead, find someone of the oppressed group who’s speaking up for themselves, and use your privilege to amplify them.
Facts are vitally important, and they’re what we do best. We have fact-checkers and myth-busting websites coming out of our ears. But people don’t listen to facts alone.
Stories, worldviews, are the framework for facts. If someone’s been sold a lie (“immigrants are taking all the jobs and houses”), they’re sold a story to put it in (which starts with “there’s a shortage of jobs and houses”). Then when you point out the number of houses standing empty, it doesn’t fit the story. So it gets ignored, or twisted into something you didn’t say. The answer to false stories is to spread true stories.
Not convinced? Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time in 1964, the road safety people ran adverts saying “Don’t drink and drive”. They gave statistics. But the adverts weren’t very effective. So they tried a new idea.
The existing story was “Driving drunk is difficult, so I’m more of a man if I can do it.” The new adverts gave them a better story: Here’s a kid who can’t sleep because her father killed someone. Kill your speed, not a child.
And why should we believe what we’re hearing? Because we’re hearing it from actual people who had been injured in road accidents. Even though the people were fictional characters, it still persuades. And now drinking and driving deaths are one-fifth of what they were 40 years ago.
Persuaded? Share it and persuade your friends.