“Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.”
“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.”
“Your mind is programmable – if you’re not programming your mind, someone else will program it for you.”
“Some conversations are not about what they’re about.”
I admit. I get a little grumpy when people start bitching about how people <but never them of course> are more gullible today than ever in the past.
Let me be absolutely clear on this. I don’t think we are any more gullible than we were yesterday or the day<s> before. Nor do I believe we are any stupider or more ignorant. In fact … I tend to believe most of us are owners of more information and knowledge than ever before <albeit it may be parts & pieces of information>.
Now. I do believe we face a couple of things which maybe make people think we are more gullible.
- A desire for more black and white
- The loss of subtlety or nuance as a basic communication tool
The black and white thing. People, in general, love the concept of things being black & white. We want it, try and believe the important things are and tend to distrust things that cannot easily fall into a black or white box.
While we may want black & white truth and things to be black and white in Life — most things are best captured in subtlety and nuance. Metaphorically, black & white are easily missed but colors capture the eye.
Subtlety and nuance. Well. Seeing that I just used a metaphor to end point one, the engine that drives effective subtlety and nuance is the ability to use metaphors effectively. As a corollary, the ability to understand an effectively communicated metaphor … well … this ‘listener access point’ is a necessary ability to insure subtlety and nuance can thrive.
In other words. Subtlety and nuance needs both an effective deliverer and an effective receiver. Someone needs to be able to paint in colors and someone needs to not be color blind. Along those lines —literalness is black & white.
And it seems like nuance and creativity in communicating is being destroyed by literalness <note: not political correctness>. We just seem to bludgeon each other with sentences stripped of adjectives and any glimmer of color.
In that literalness we end up being a warped version of gullible. I say all that because far too often ‘gullible’ is associated with ‘not intelligent.’ That is not so. In today’s world gullible is being driven by the death of subtlety, nuance and metaphorical speak.
The savvy communicators in the world recognize this and therefore revert to simple bludgeoning words & thoughts.
Worse? They simply bludgeon us with simplicity. Or, well, at least what they construe as simplicity but as it comes to life in its hideously insipid quasi-truthful simplistic form it does more damage in its effect than if you had said nothing at all.
This all suggests that it may appear like being gullible is running rampant amongst us all … and, yet, we may simply being managed by those who know how to effectively articulate what they want to say <which may not be truth>?
The most effective tactic a literal communicator uses is by discussing ‘knowledge’ by fitting an explanation after an event — which is actually kind of easy <and lazy>. In addition it makes it easy to literally bludgeon others to such a point it appears … well … simple. All the while is the ignored nuance of knowledge … is the past really a predictor of the future?
In addition the simplicity can often be doubled down on with impassioned rhetoric. And that impassioned rhetoric doesn’t cut through truth like a sharp knife … it smothers it. I do worry about the simplicity rhetoric out there. And I worry because I know nothing about … well … a lot of shit <to put it bluntly> and I suspect most things are quite complicated … not simple. I worry that literalness ignores the nuances which dictate the truth. I worry because literalness is certainly easier to grasp by people. And I worry if they grasp a literal untruth and believe it … well … it becomes a perverted truth.
“The truth isn’t the truth until people believe you, and they can’t believe you if they don’t know what you’re saying, and they can’t know what you’re saying if they don’t listen to you, and they won’t listen to you if you’re not interesting, and you won’t be interesting unless you say things imaginatively, originally, freshly.”
Savvy communicators have always been, well, savvy. Savvy at manipulating not only our thoughts but also how we feel. They tap into our pea like brains like surgeons. And they do so using tools of both literalness and nuance/subtlety. In fact .. the best wield one in each hand.
Now. There are a certainly a variety of tried & true ways we get manipulated/managed by speakers <this list represents a Great Courses course on persuasive speaking>:
Show the obstacle and overcome it
Empathetic authenticity <I see myself in them>
Create and tell a Story
the Power of the ‘three‘ <we LOVE lists … and short doable & rememberable lists>
the Logical Case
Paint a Pictures <with words>
Share a vision
appeal to the head, heart & wallet
Inspire with a Call for positive action
Yes. Nuances matter.
All literalness does is permit we <the listener> to add our nuanced beliefs on top of the starkness and in the cracks & crevasses literalness tends to leave behind. That translates into a stronger self-biased attitude. I am not suggesting literalness be replaced by bullshit buzzwords and cool sounding strategies but rather that facts are supported by subtle and nuanced aspects to reflect the most important truth – facts are complex. I could argue that subtlety and nuance represents the difference between true effective sustainable functioning structures and inefficient unsustainable nonfunctioning structures.
But I will not.
I will not because the real answer is that we don’t know for sure. But what we do know is that effective communication is the lifeblood of any healthy work & personal environment. We also know that communication takes place on multiple levels in order to be truly effective – literally what we say as well as how we say those things.
We also know that emotion is the energy behind any true action. Without emotion action is … well … robotic at its core. In other words … it creates a task doing and checklist completion attitude.
Task doing and completion attitude unfortunately feeds into a ‘gullible’ perspective , i.e., just doing what I was told.
Now. That may not be true … but it certainly creates that perspective.
I absolutely do not believe we are anymore gullible today than we were yesterday. I do believe one of the most unfortunate consequences of information accessibility <in its overwhelming way> is that literalness has taken on a significant importance in our heads <and, therefore, it affects our behavior>. I also like to remind people that we suck at knowing what we want.
In an information accessible world we say we want black & white … but we really don’t. We crave subtlety & nuance and colors. We just desire it in a way that doesn’t make us work too hard. And, frankly, that is no different today than it was yesterday and nor will it be any different in the future. Give us something we can understand and enjoy … give us the literal truth in a story line in which we can embrace … give the black & white some nuanced rich & royal hues … and well … you have trapped my mind emotionally and logically.
That, my friends, does not reflect gullible in any way. That reflects a well-informed, engaged semi-enlightened population.
Subtlety is surely not dead. And we should be seeking to use it more often … or at least try. Literalness may be currently standing in the spotlight but subtlety & nuance is standing nearby awaiting literalness to wilt under the harsh light of … well … what is truth.
“Once you create a self-justifying storyline, your emotional entrapment within it quadruples.”