Monday, June 25, 2012

Our Propaganda is Working!

Recently, while I was held prisoner in the dentist's chair, he, in true dentist form, took the opportunity to interrogate me.

Once his fingers were in my mouth, he demanded the location of the rebel base.  When he went on to ask if I had any teeth-related problems, I decided to fully cooperate in the hope of getting off for good behavior. So I replied honestly: "I have a reoccurring nightmare that my teeth are falling out!" The words fell out of my open mouth before I realized that my dentist probably didn't care about that sort of problem. His response, however, upped the ante.

He laughed. Not because what I said was funny; this wasn’t a Santa Clause laugh. It was a maniacal laugh that really lent itself to the mental picture of me being interrogated by an evil agent. "Mwahaha!” he cackled. “Our propaganda is working!"

Needless to say, I think I must have the best dentist in the world. ...Or the worst.

Either way, Dr. Smith has convinced me to religiously brush my teeth twice a day. (Religiously, in this case, means that I do my best, but I’m far from perfect.) How did he do that? Because his propaganda worked.

We are all message-carriers. Every time we open our mouths to talk, we are trying to convey the message in our minds into someone else's mind; we’re trying to make our propaganda work. Some of us are good at it: I went to school with some of the top communicators in the country--their mountains debate trophies are evidence of that. I, however, often find it difficult to get my message across. One of the biggest battles when convincing anyone of anything is keeping them from jumping to conclusions about what you mean.

Sometimes, the words we use distract from the message we are trying to get across. For example, when you talk about voting, many people will hear one political buzz word and write you off as a crazy person. You say that you’re "Conservative" and they put you in a box of being close minded and wanting to repress gay people. I've had people accuse me of that to my face (as well as to my Facebook). They assume all kinds of things without asking me any questions.

These people get bogged down before I can even get to the point of what I am trying to say. They put me and my ideas in a box.

I struggle to communicate in ways that don't put me in a box. Once you are in a box, you’re separated from whoever you’re talking to and you’re easily ignored. So, the trick is to try to get inside someone else’s box. Sometimes you can turn the tables by figuring out which box they’re in. Then, you can find the words to connect with them.

For example, if they are self-identified as politically independent, go out of your way to build credibility. Show them that you’re not in anyone's pocket. Show that you care about the same sort of things that they care about and learn as much of their "language" as you can.

Really, that’s the key to any communication: speaking the right language. If you want to talk with someone from Siberia, I recommend you learn Russian. It is a simple concept, when you think about it.

What’s more important than what we think we’re saying is what the other person is hearing. No matter how right we think we are, if the message doesn't make it from us to them, no one will be better off. It’s better to keep silent then to have your words miss the mark entirely.

So here are some tricks I use to make sure that my message gets across:
1.    Listen first. You can’t know what language to use if you don't listen first and find out.
2.    Don't use "insider words" when talking with outsiders.
3.    Stay focused on your main point. People like to get distracted by side issues because it allows them to write you off. Don't let them--stay on target!

I know I still have a lot to learn about this, so have you found any ways to make your propaganda work with people?

Posted by Jeremiah Lorrig

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