Recently, I tweeted this:
Deep down, we’re all driven by emotions, but we spend most of our time defending our actions rationally. It causes much needless pain.
— Thor Harald Johansen (@ThorTheNorseman) March 25, 2016
Every decision we make is ultimately driven by our feelings and emotions. Those are in turn driven by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Simple, right? So why do we all try so hard to hide it?
Shame and fear.
Do you really like to work, or are you just ashamed to admit that you depend on it for food and shelter? Do you really think your spouse needs to change, or are you just afraid to admit that your spouse has certain unchanging behaviors that upset you and no one else, and you’re worried that uncovering these irreconcilable differences is going to cost you your marriage?
The fact is that our behaviors and thoughts are all rooted in feelings and emotions. Political opinions are often rooted in basic feelings: Libertarians love choice. Authoritarians hate it. Left-wingers hate that life’s unfair. Right-wingers take it to heart. These basic feelings, stances, attitudes, are not altered by something as insubstantial as a rational argument. They are only altered by emotionally powerful events.
If you’re looking to influence a person, find out what his basic feelings are, and see if your argument can be adapted to satisfy those feelings. If this is impossible, you will not be able to influence him. With a rational argument, you may be able to force him into a corner. While this may be immensely satisfying to you, this only serves to humiliate him. He will reject everything you said and substitute self-affirmations in order to repair his shattered ego.
For example, if you wish to convince an authoritarian left-winger of your libertarian right-winger views, you must convincingly argue that your policy proposals will lessen the burden of choice and make life fairer. There is a good chance that is impossible to do without lying. This, of course, explains why the politicians who tell the best lies are the most successful ones.
If we were all honest about our basic feelings, I suspect there would be fewer friends and lovers in the world. There are simply too many irreconcilable differences. In order to get along with each other, we must tell lies.
And it’s all perfectly ridiculous.