How To Be So Wrong, You’re Right

Some people are master storytellers.

No matter the subject, they compel their audience to hang on their every word, drawing them into a narrative that is naturally engaging, continually revealing, and forever leaving us wanting more.

Others are just straight outrageous. Yet still achieve the same result. But how?

Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) has spent his recent years understanding the latter and is starting to reveal the secrets of these master persuaders. How can they be so outrageous, yet still command belief. How they can they say things we know are false, yet convince us of their own credibility.

The answer: hypnosis. Or, in essence, leveraging our own irrational biases to have us focus in on the arguments and forget about the facts.

Scott was one of the first to predict the success of one Pres. D. Trump, so perhaps his arguments have truth.

Be So Outrageous They Can’t Ignore You

We use facts to re-enforce a point. The problem is, people don’t really care about facts. We have a set of ingrained beliefs and no amount of facts is going to jilt that.

However, if you can have us discussing the argument, you could be some way to influencing our narrative. No matter how (ir)rational.

By saying something truly outrageous, you are saying something memorable (even if ‘wrong’). ‘We need to build a wall’ is just a much stronger way of saying ‘we have an immigration problem’.

Whether there is a problem, or a wall is the answer, doesn’t really matter. The mere extremity of the suggestion has a nation discussing the issue of immigration and has brought the argument to the fore.

Be outrageous. Be remembered. Be discussed.

Be Highly Visual to Stick in the Mind

The wall is also a highly visual example. Stating huge numbers or scary facts can be quickly forgotten, rendered ineffective. Saying something that creates an imposing picture in the mind is the opposite: the image (eg. of the wall) will stay with you.

Similarly, by calling someone ‘crooked’, ‘low-energy’ or another similarly visual word helps associate that person with a persona we can almost see. This sticks — and creates a stereotype that is near impossible to escape (rightly or wrongly).

The more visual — and contrasting with belief or standard expectation —the statement, the more effective the result will be.

These two elements help etch a space in the audience’s mind. Facts are quickly forgotten, visual positions are not.

While there may be a sense of ridicule in the immediate aftermath of a statement, if you back down from the extremity over time, the visual remnants of the argument will stick long into the future.

These are not necessarily traits to adopt. But they are to be understood. Lest others lull us into a false sense.