Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Common Mistake That Makes Our Prasang Varnan Lifeless

We always love to hear the things our readers have to say, and what better way to show our appreciation by sharing the wealth. A fellow sabha.ologist shared the following wisdom with his yuvak mandal.

Why details often feel like sacrifices

Drilling down on a detail entails sacrifice. It means you won’t get the chance to say everything there is to say about your beloved prasang.

I have seen this many times, that a speaker's prasang is filled with abstractions and generalizations, assuming listeners will mentally fill in the specific from the general.

But the human brain doesn’t work that way.

Imagination trumps logic

Tell me a Zappo’s-style story about an amazing support experience and I’ll conclude that you’ve made a commitment to superior service.

But tell me you have “great customer service,” and I’ll conclude you’re full of it. You expect me to fill in the details about specific ways our service might manifest itself, but I won’t. I don’t have any details to “prove” your point to myself.

The specific can be imagined. It has dramatic power. Generalization just results in easily dismissed, flaccid storytelling, devoid of any emotional power or credibility.

Here’s an example of this same principle at work, as described by Jay Heinrichs (of Figaro Speech fame) in his book, Thank You For Arguing:

"Suppose you wanted me to be angry at my next door neighbor. You could tell me what a jerk he is — that he flirts in front of his wife and watches bad TV. None of this would make me angry at him. You described his personality, not his experience. To make me angry, give me a vivid description of a specific outrage.

You: He called the Boy Scouts a fascist organization.
Me: Well, he’s entitled to his –
You: On Halloween? When my little boy comes to his stoop wearing his older brother’s uniform?
Me: How do you –
You: I was there. When he started to cry, he said, “If you turn out to be gay, you’ll be glad you met me.” Then he looked straight at me and slammed the door.

That would make me angry at the neighbor. You re-created a dramatic scene, making me see it through your eyes. This works much better than name calling."

Tell us a story

See what I’m talking about? You have to be willing to tell one small sliver of your story powerfully, instead of trying to summarize the whole experience in abstract generalizations.

This means you have to do two things:

1. Find the specifics that can represent your larger points
2. Figure out how to breathe life into those specifics through persuasive storytelling

Basically, put my faith in the vivid, dramatic power of specifics.

Have faith in your audience to conclude the general from the specific, rather than the other way around.

Agree or disagree? Feel free to post comments below.

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