It's like air. It's so universal, we hardly notice it. It's always there; it meets our needs; we make use of it and benefit from it without paying much attention. In the light of free will, it is the perfect means of influence. Just set the example, and let others choose to follow.
"How do I get people to listen to me?" gets asked over and over right in the face of the obvious answer. To get people to listen to you, listen to them. Set the example.
Example is the most powerful form of influence for the same reason that gesture is more powerful than speech. Wave someone ahead of you while saying, "Behind me," and they'll go ahead of you. Everyone's original learning method was imitation. Our basic learning method is observation. You don't have to get people to watch what you do; they already have that habit.
"Be patient and hear me out," I say impatiently. "Don't give me orders," I order. "You can't just make categorical statements," I say categorically. I want the meaning of my words to have influence, but the influence of my example is stronger. That's why "You have no choice," always fails as influence. The example of denying choice negates any attempt at influence. When people complain that they try to reason with others, but everyone is impervious to reason, the cause is failure to recognize that example is the strongest form of influence. When I present truth as my truth, to which you must agree, my example denies that you have a choice. The attitude conveys the message, and reason is negated.
Behold the vicious cycle that traps believers in mind control. Try it, and others are influenced to protect themselves against it. If they succeed, they look impenetrable. See? You cannot get through to people; you have to sneak around their defenses. The same trap catches the theorists who treat influence as a game. The example of using a "ploy" influences a subject to try one also, which seems to confirm the theory.
If I pretend to listen to you so you will listen to me, then if you are influenced by my example, you will pretend to listen. We will pretend to have a conversation. Example is the most honest form of influence, because you cannot fake it. You cannot gain positive influence by doing something without a purpose beyond influence. Example is influential when it is efficacious. Humans do not imitate mindlessly like monkeys; they are influenced by what you do only after they judge it.
To find how to maximize example's influence, analyze it. An action employs a means to attain an end. Do both the end and the means influence others equally, and if not, which is stronger?
"I see that he wants to get rich, so I want to get rich." That's an example of being influenced by the goal of another. Or is it? Let's ask, "Is that your purpose in life then?"
"My purpose in life is to be as good as that S-O-B!"
In other words, getting rich is seen as an end for the other guy, but as a means for me. That's because I am self-regulating. My motive for studying what others do is to attain my own ends. I am interested in the goals of others as they might provide means for my own goals. Example does not influence ends, but means.
To maximize the influence of your actions, emphasize the methods. Remember that others may share your goals or ignore them, but they attend to your methods. When you do things in ways that conceal how you do them, your example will be less influential. When you expose your methods and show people how you do things, your example will be more influential. When people ask why you do things, they are wondering if your methods will serve their goals. The influence comes from how you do things.
This analysis can be applied to solve the paradox of argumentation.
Argument is generally assumed to be an attempt at influence by using reason. People say, "I tried to persuade them; I proved my case; I used every argument in the book. And there they sat, impassive, refusing to be persuaded by anything." The frustrated persuader ends up saying, "But you can't just ignore my argument! You have to refute it! If you can't refute it, you must accept it. You have to admit I'm right."
That's the paradox of argumentation. It is presented as logical reasoning devoid of the slightest hint of force—but the conclusion is supposed to be as final and compulsive as the point of a sword. "I'll bring out the big guns," we say. "I'll explode your argument. You had me down for a moment, but I rallied and parried your thrusts and in the end drove my point home."
When people describe argumentation, they call it an application of sweet reason. When they complain that it didn't work, they talk as if it were mind control. Reasonable people, it seems, are under compulsion to bow to the will of the expert logician. Who gains the point gets the prize. If you start out giving reasons, you end up giving orders. If you don't refute me, but also don't agree with me, then you are evading the facts of reality.
Or perhaps you know something I don't. Perhaps you know that reality is not understood by means of propositions, but by means of observations. You might learn from every nicety of my logic, while judging the argument as a whole to be based not on reality but on ideas about reality. You might decide not to be regulated by my demands for refutation, but by your own growing disinterest.
Of two influences, the effect of reasoning and the example of compulsion, the stronger will be the example of compulsion. It will put all listeners on guard. Demands are to be resisted. Watch out! He's trying to back us into a corner. He's acting as if we can't choose.
The paradox of argumentation arises because logic is taken to be the strongest influence possible among reasoning human beings, so that it must overpower even an obnoxious manner and an overbearing presentation. No matter how negative the example set, the influence of logic has to be stronger, or else the listeners are evading reality. But the influence of logic is, in fact, zero.
Logic is not an influence. Logic is a method. Calling logic an influence is like calling algebra an influence. You can do that figuratively, but not literally. To influence people using logic, you show them this method. You show them how to identify things without contradiction. The purpose of argumentation is not to install your conclusion into another mind. It is to show the other mind how you reached your conclusion. The influence of argumentation is the influence of example. Argument is not about what to think. It is about how to think.
This follows from the fact of self-regulation. Because my mind is unique, I must be sure that I know it well—I am the only one who can. I must be careful to know exactly how I reached my convictions. I must be able to name the observations I started with, and the methods I used to fit everything together. My mind is all I've got. I must know it well, or else it won't serve me well.
The important thing for my mind is whether or not I understand an argument, not whether or not I can refute it. I must avoid the trap of memorizing the conclusion of an argument, and pretending to believe it, or pretending to dismiss it. No matter how convincing the argument, I must never stop there, lest my own mind become a tangle of confusion. I must confirm the observations at the base of the argument, and I must trace the steps leading to the conclusion. If I do not know how to do that, I must try to learn how by your example. If you make this difficult by issuing orders and making demands, then your influence will be negative, no matter how perfect your logic.
If you ask people to accept what you say solely on the strength of your logic, you are asking them to substitute your mental process for theirs. You are not asking for agreement, but surrender. Your example says, "I'll do the thinking!" Logic, to use philosopher Ayn Rand's phrase, is the art of non-contradictory identification. When you communicate your identification to another mind, the other mind has heard the identification. It has not made the identification until it investigates the facts of reality for itself.
The biggest influence of an argument, a dispute, or a debate comes from the example it sets of how to handle reality in the mind. It shows how to get things straight and keep things straight. Its real purpose is not to lay down the law, but to display the method. It might say what is, but it shows how to. Self-regulating individuals do not live by being told what is. They live by learning how to find out for themselves what is.
So show them how. If you want to influence people with arguments, set the example. Make the argument a description of how you made or confirmed an observation, and how you combined that new knowledge with all your old knowledge, and how that conclusion helps you handle reality. Don't think of your reasoning as the influence; think of your example as the influence. Take free will seriously, and you will find that your argumentation is taken seriously.
The alternative is to keep searching for ways around free will. That is the way to Wotan's Dilemma.
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