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Saturday, February 5, 2022

Who wouldn't want to be "influential?"

Well, the target market for this book is everyone.
Once upon a time, on an auspicious day in history, you were born—influential. In fact, influence was your only means of survival. You had no sharp teeth or claws to protect you. You couldn’t run away or camouflage yourself. You didn’t seem that smart yet, but you had an innate ability to express your desires, connect with other human beings, and persuade them to take care of you. Which they did, day and (sleepless) night, for years.

When you learned to speak, you expressed yourself more precisely, using your words to become even more influential. You told people what you wanted and what you absolutely did not want. NO! You learned quickly that life could be negotiable and began asking for later bedtimes, more television, your favorite treats. You were like a tiny carpet merchant in a Moroccan bazaar. Wielding influence was as automatic as breathing. You were growing physically stronger too, but your greatest strength was the power to persuade people to take action on your great ideas.

Interpersonal influence is our human advantage, passed down in our DNA. It is what allowed our species to band together, work together, and span the globe. It will remain our advantage in an increasingly digital world, for as long as people are in charge…

Chance, Zoe. Influence Is Your Superpower (pp. 3-4). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

This was a fun and illuminating read. It jumped my never-diminishing priority books queue and kept me riveted. Given my persistent (and chronically dubiety-afflicted) Jones for "Deliberation Science," it gave me a lot to think about. We have much important stuff to attend to.

Welcome to Zoe's World of Gators, Judges, Sharks, and even a Kindly Brontosaurus.

The Gator is Dr. Chance's metaphor for Daniel Kahneman's "System 1" ancient lizard brain: quick, efficient, heuristic cut-to-the chase thinking model, adaptive in a world of relatively simple opportunities and threats ("The 4 F's of evolution: Feeding, Fighting, Fleeing, and Reproduction"). 
The Judge is neocortical "System 2"—"deliberative," logical, methodical (simplistically regarded as "reasoned"). "Just The Facts."
I been diggin' me some Kahneman & Tversky for decades. "Behavioral ECON" has a lot going for it.
Dr. Chance hardly needs my interpretations. She's got this stuff down cold:

Cool, 'eh?

Lots to unpack here. First off, you owe it to yourself to buy and study her book. Read the Amazon reviews (confirmation bias and all, LOL). I pretty much agree with all of the reviewers' assessments.

Some things that bedevil our thinking, particularly as it goes to persuasion and influence:

There is no first-person singular present-tense active voice usage of the word "wrong." No one ever says "I AM wrong."
[props to Kathryn Schulz]  Our aggregate default is that we're right about everything. To the extent that we continue to survive, that's an understandable assumption—as it pertains to minor, inconsequential issues, anyway, and it inexorably tilts us toward "confirmation bias."
Our education system mostly tells us there's one "right answer" to every question—lurking amid a boatload of "wrong ones."
And, those who quickly alight on the "right answer" get reinforced and nurtured as they move through the system.
Being wrong is not a synonym for being "stupid" or ignorant. 

Neither is "ignorant" a synonym for "stupid." But it's mostly epithetically spun that way

Humans "reason" to WIN the argument.

 Should truth happen along the way, so much the better. (See "Why Do Humans Reason?" by Sperber & Mercier) Evolutionary adaptive utility, "The Pen is Mightier Than The Sword."

He/She with the best story WINS!

Trial Lawyering 101. Prior to writing and movable type, stories were the whole ballgame. Hence, our evolved affinity.

Once you decide that X is right or wrong / good or bad, you cannot unring that bell.

A staple look-before-you-leap admonishment of mine back when I was teaching "Critical Thinking."

If, when it's all said and done, your logic is impeccable, and your facts and evidence are bulletproof, yet you remain unpersuasive, what have you really accomplished?''

Another classroom staple of mine. That one was "exceeding my brief" as it were, but my Sups never noticed or cared. Anyway, my overall teach-to-the-text priority focus as a piddly Adjunct necessarily had to be "OK, here's how this stuff works. Take it or leave it."

Once you finish her book you will have a firm grip on just why. I love it when I learn stuff.
WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT the individual genetic and developmental differences that impact the sensory portions of our nervous systems, it’s remarkable that we can agree on a shared reality at all.  Linden, David. Unique (p. 253). Basic Books. Kindle Edition
Stay tuned. More to come, but gonna post this much now and go prep for my grandson Calvin, who is coming to stay the night...


Back to Zoe.
to wit,
Page 144
Yeah. Recall a riff of mine:

Loud Boy comes to mind. LOL Recall Amanda Ripley's "conflict entrepreneurs?" Poster Boy Joe.


Yeah, the word "influence" can conjure up some negativity. e.g., add the word "peddling." 'eh? Dr. Chance would just say "don't let the Bad Guys have all the fun."

Thinking about some of my recent readings that jibe with Dr. Chance's work.

Hardly exhaustive. e.g., James Alcock's "Belief" also jumps to mind. How about "Moral Tribes?"

You get the idea.
Yeah, it's difficult, daunting, often overwhelming. But, as my wise old friend "Uncle Al" liked to say (the eminent South Knoxville auto body & paint artisan, older brother to my drummer), "if all we had to do was sign up for the checks we'd all be millionaires."
You, Me, We

As our paths cross, entwine, diverge, and reconnect, we form a greater whole, a sprawling, living web of influence. You are already part of this collective power. The root of the word “influence” is the Latin influere, “to flow in.” As a river. A current. Your influence flows from other people, and to other people, and from them to others, and on and on. Sometimes you’re aware of those who lifted you up or helped inspire your great ideas, sometimes not. Sometimes you’re aware of your own ripple effects, sometimes not. Small nudges here and there, sacrifices by brave and committed individuals, kind acts by not-so-committed individuals, accidents and acts of fate: They all connect us.

Awakening to this web is like embarking on a choose-your-own-adventure book. You can step up to be the hero, play a supporting role as the sidekick, stand your ground as the ally, or sit this one out. You can also change your mind along the way. Not every great idea will be right for you. But when you do choose to step forward, now you can do it bigger and better…

Not all battles are yours to fight. But my hope is that when you choose your own, the tools and ideas in this book will help you recruit allies who will improve your chances of succeeding and making the process more enjoyable. Margaret Mead was talking about influence when she famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Together, and with big enough dreams, we can make magic happen. We can reverse the path of climate change. We can eradicate the caste systems that have kept generations of people poor, sick, and humiliated. We can collaborate on technical solutions to cure our worst diseases. We can join together to face the darkness and move beyond our fears.

You don’t have to change the whole world. Or save it. But each one of us can make a difference for someone. You can help in your community. You can lobby your leaders to get policies passed that will make life easier for the people at work, at your school, or in your town. You can organize the members of your church, mosque, or temple to protect and serve people who need it. You can mediate a conflict within your family. You can be a role model. A mentor. A teacher…
[Zoe, pp. 226-228]
Or an old washed-up guitar player writing a blog, trying to figure stuff out.

A compelling read, at the right time
Reviewed in the United States on February 6, 2022
Verified Purchase

I forget now precisely how I came upon this book, but I’m glad I did. I have long been a student of how subject matter experts think — predominantly with respect to the cognitive processes of physicians and lawyers — and have an abiding interest in processes of “deliberation.” Specifically, these days regarding our public discourse polarization, with its increasingly fractious tribal “talking past each other” trend, in the face of serious social problems in need of resolution or effective mitigation.

I started undergraduate school in my 30s, originally as an advertising major, so I am fairly up to speed on “persuasion” tactics in marketing. I then went on to grad school In a program called “Ethics and Policy Studies.” All “deliberation” all the time, on complex, thorny issues. Followed that up with a fun stint teaching “critical thinking” at my U. I would ask my students “what if your logic and evidence are bulletproof, your reasoning crystal clear, yet you change no minds? What have you really accomplished?” I never really gave that enough attention.

Were I teaching that course today, Dr. Chance’s book would be a required text.

One thing has become painfully clear across the ensuing decades: logical reasoning is not enough, by any means. Dr. Chance’s work and this book provide an accessible and thorough addition to both the scholarly literature and practical “News You Can Use.” Well worth your time.

A particularly endearing aspect of this book to me is Zoe‘s candid recounting of often difficult episodes from her own life and career. Her humanity pours through in addition to her obvious expertise. Very nice.
I will have more to say on this topic soon. Suffice it to say for now that I've focused inordinate "choirboy" attention on those rational, deliberate "Judges," while according the cognitive Gators short shrift. Zoe Chance has nudged me in a more fruitful direction. We have work to do.
Good discussion with the author.

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