Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Non-Partison Look At Last Night's Debate

I WATCHED LAST NIGHT'S presidential debate. My daughter's persuasive writing professor assigned it so I told her I'd watch with her since she was dreading it. My daughter is a lot like me. We both feel that politicians are heavy on ear-tickling and light on substance or valuable accomplishment. 

I admit a lot of the what was said was not very interesting. I was more attuned to observing the candidates'   persuasive nuances, searching for the techniques they employed to make the most impact. For instance, it seemed that citing statistics was common. Doing so made them look intelligent and well-versed in the subject matter, right?  

The big take-away for me was that when a speaker is trying to be persuasive, she or he will attempt to manipulate the emotions of the listener. More than once, both candidates mentioned "real" people with "real" problems. You know, the everyday Joe (or Sue) who is down on his luck, unemployed with multiple young ones to care for. This is the stuff we can relate to on an emotional level and it's where the speaker can hook us, especially if he has a plan of action for rectifying the problems we feel passionate about. 

A persuasive speaker is a lot like a gardener in spring. He's full of optimism that his (perceived) clean slate will grow into something dazzling in just a few short months. He has little doubt that his plan of action will succeed if he just works really hard and has the cooperation of (the weather) or Congress. He's unaware (or ignoring) the dormant weed seeds waiting for the opportunity to spring up and thwart his ideals. 

To be successful in winning the respect of his listeners, a persuasive speaker has to believe what he speaks and ignore and/or blame the naysayers. 

I spent a lot of years being manipulated. When I was really little, it was forced on me without my consent but as I got older, there were many times when I knew it was happening and allowed it because I wanted the approval of the manipulator. 

One of the benefits of getting older and having the scars of lessons-learned is the ability to spot a manipulator and refuse their bullshit. 

Any thoughts on this subject? How have you handled manipulation? 


  1. Good analysis of techniques politicians use. I like the comparison with gardeners.

    If I sense that someone is trying to manipulate me, I get very defensive and angry and back off from that person.

  2. very good Gracie. I tried to watch it but I couldn't....everything in life can be related to the garden, after all, life began in a garden!

  3. That was good to compare elections to gardening, and especially the need for weeding.

  4. I watched it with the "mute" on. So I watched it but didn't listen to it. Words can deceive, but faces and bodies reveal.

  5. Oh Grace, having had the American election lead the news alternately with a horrific beef recall here in Canada - was interested in reading your take-away from last night's performances. Wrote speeches in a former life and remember having to stage-manage all those bits of convincing mannerisms. If I was to think of it as a gardening exercise, it was more like arranging wired silks with a carefully concealed battery. Both candidates must be exhausted, but another 3 (is that right?) debates like that isn't going to improve voter turnout I fear. While they both seemed to stay on message from what I understand, (both were wearing the correct coloured* ties (that should be colored*)) neither seemed to deliver their message with any passion. barbarapc

  6. Ah yes - manipulation. Why is such a familiar cloak to wear? I dispise manipulation. I can remember girls in highschool using tears to get their way. "Friends" who threated in various manners. Politicians...don't get me started. It is a hard life to choose, a life in politics - and as it has been said before - those smart enough to run the country are too smart to get into politics! Yet to me the absolute worse manipulation is through family. Yuck.

    You see, family has all the sharp pointy sticks and know where and when to jab them. And they often hide in the shadows of family events - weddings, birthdays, showers and even funerals. The manupulation comes, often blindsiding you, and leaving you unable to respond in the way you want to. It is not appropriate to tell someone to back off when "Aunt Lil" is laying in her coffin.

    How does the garden grow? Well - no matter how lovely the flowers may be - the roots are deep into manure.

    Manipulation makes me angry - but also a bit powerless, especially with family. How far do you go? You have a wedding next month and graduation after that. Christmas is around the corner. How do you respond without building more walls?

    It is no wonder so many become passive aggressive - as there never seems to be a time to let it out and let it lay.

  7. Great analysis! I feel sad that manipulation is the accepted norm these days. I wonder how it is going to turn around. i think it is sad that the politicians have taken us for simpletons and of course the trend does not stop with the politicians....I also don't believe that other countries are much better.


  8. Manipulation through lies and deceit is bullying...I have a good BS meter that has been honed with experience...I was a debater in school and we have lost the whole idea of the debate and arguing your point of view...I didn't see that especially on one side...and no prompts were or are allowed...cheating during a debate as it appears one did is another form of manipulation...sad that people are taken in by outright lies and manipulation and when it is presented refuse to believe it...either we have really lowered the bar or we are just used to being bullied....or both!

  9. Interesting post. Politicians, lobbyists, corporations – master manipulators all of them! Manipulation is all around us everyday. Seems someone is always telling us what products to use, what we should think, how we should live (big house, new cars, fancy stuff, blah blah blah). In my youth, there was expectation of what I should be, and frustration that I was not; then I rebelled. To combat manipulation, I think it is essential to recognize the pressure felt, then ask oneself pointed questions about the situation. However, sometimes the manipulator can be pretty slick...

    Over the years, I've been witness to extreme manipulation of my husband's daughters by their mother. We tried to help them fight against this; to some degree it helped one daughter recognize it. Sounds like your situation – it comes down to wanting the approval (and love) of the manipulator. They are in their 20s now, but it continues on... In this regard, I've realized it comes down to the person to spot it and say No. Like you said, sometimes that comes with age.

  10. "One of the benefits of getting older and having the scars of lessons-learned is the ability to spot a manipulator and refuse their bullshit." Perfectly said Grace. It must be a miserable person to be a manipulator, because if that is all you got and you can't present yourself legitimately or just ask for what you need honestly, then you have dug your own hole. I appreciate honestly so much more and I like real people who admit their flaws.

  11. Very interesting thoughts Grace. Politicians ugh the master manipulators.
    I spent a lot of years being manipulated (abused), partly not knowing it was happening but also not mentally healthy enough to deal with it. Over the years with a diet change (eliminating gluten has changed my life), adding in huge amounts of D3 to help combat depression and surrounding myself with healthy people.
    It takes years though doesn't it.


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