Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Humor Versus Stridency

Let's say you wish to persuade your readers to consider and adopt your views on an issue. Further, let's say it's an extremely controversial issue--like gay marriage, welfare policy or some contentious political dispute.

Which of the two following modes of persuasion would you consider most effective?

1) A strident post with an activist tone that harshly criticizes opposing views.

2) A humorous post that makes your case using a funny or ironic anecdote, or that pokes fun both at yourself and the opposition.

If you answered #1, you are wrong. Dead wrong. That approach only works with people who already agree with you. Go right ahead and preach to the converted, but whenever any new visitors show up to your church you should be locked away.

If you want those who don't agree with you to consider agreeing with you, the easiest way is to make them laugh. Don't take yourself so seriously, and help your audience do the same.

Laughter helps readers set aside their egos. It puts them in a place where they're more likely to consider facts and ideas that contradict their existing beliefs. Stridency just makes people put up their defenses and tune you out.

If you can make your readers laugh, they will keep reading. If you're strident or argumentative, you will subvert your own message, and you will repel any reader who doesn't already agree with you.

Talk about a pointless exercise.