Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fantasy Became Reality

I have come to accept this activity
as perfectly safe, for example.
Perhaps it's my mostly-introverted tendencies coming to the fore, but nothing shapes reality quite so strongly as ones perceptions of it. If apples are perceived as being unpleasant, they will be unpleasant in any and all circumstances, until someone can slip the apples past your perception filter and tell you what they were only after you enjoyed them. In cooking, we refer to this as "hiding the peas in the mashed potatoes". I used to think of it as a deplorable practice until I obtained a job where changing minds was less of a hobby and more of a necessity.

I see it all the time. Someone comes in - usually too young to understand the concept of research (so, mid-twenties), or too old to change their ways (I leave that to your interpretation), demands a totally inappropriate combination of fish for their tank size, and leaves in a huff when one person or another tells them it's a bad idea. Granted, there's no gentle way to say it, but inappropriate stocking is the most common form of animal abuse, whether we're dealing with fish or people who think that lizards can go into community setups.

However, every now and then, one has a lucid moment and can think before they speak. Instead of saying "No, putting a goldfish in a tank that small is a horrible idea" and then launching into the long-winded explanation of how stunting kills fish, we can occasionally remember to say instead "Here, let me show you a better arrangement" without even pausing to explain why the original is bad (until we're asked, of course). By then, whoever is on the receiving end of our activism has already bought into the idea of our better suggestions and is listening to our advice less in the frame of us being a 'retail wage slave/under-trained sales guy' and more in the frame of "passionate veteran fishkeeper" - which in at least the case of our location, not a single person is less than a six-year veteran of the hobby (I, actually, have the least experience).

This is actually true of any ideology. It's a skill many humanists, and other ideological salespeople (feminists being the flavour of the month, but also evangelists and scientists, to name a few) frankly lack. I myself have only the vaguest understanding of it existing on an academic level and certainly don't find it reflexive, so I can at least understand why it's underused as a tactic. I guess you could call it a bait and switch. In sales, we called it up-selling. At Teavana, I frequently used it to down-sell from something expensive but ineffectual to something that would actually work for the complaints given - a trick that provided a few very lucrative relationships.

It seems to me the most common path an ideologue takes looks something like this:
<Insert argument here> is the most preferable ideal. You disagree? You must be <insert denigrating adjective here>. 
Or, to elucidate it in familiar form:
Stocking a tank as is appropriate to the size of the system is the most preferable ideal. You disagree? You must be abusive to animals.
 Marriage equality if the state is allowed to marry individuals is the most preferable idea. You disagree? You must be hateful.
Women are constantly oppressed in our society. You disagree? You must be an ignorant pawn of the patriarchy. 
Faith in Christ is the most preferable ideal. You disagree? You must be proud in your sin.
Taking preventative action toward climate change is the most preferable ideal. You disagree? You must be wilfully ignorant. 
This fish, for example, should not exist.
See how it makes even agreeable statements look like absolute nonsense? And yet, it is the key debating tactic of even the popular internet personalities (Thunderf00t and the people he fights with being just one common example). Invective gets the people who already agree with you excited. It does nothing to change minds.

The next time you disagree with someone, no matter how breathtakingly stupid they are, con them into agreeing with you, rather than telling them flat-out that they're breathtakingly stupid. Who knows - you might actually get them to agree with you. For an example of this technique in live action in a non-sales context, consider the very well-written "My Journey Toward the Church" series by Cam over at A Woman's Place.

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