The necessity of persuasion

Nate Silver has had quite a year.  Not only did he and his team at Baseball Prospectus correctly predict the Tampa Bay Rays would have a big year (they reached their first World Series), but on the side he launched a political prediction career that culminated when he correctly predicted the popular vote of the recent US Presidential election within four tenths of a percentage point.   He’s been working on a round of post-election analysis and had a rather heated exchange with a conservative pundit that he commented on a week before Thanksgiving:

There are a certain segment of conservatives who literally cannot believe that anybody would see the world differently than the way they do. They have not just forgotten how to persuade; they have forgotten about the necessity of persuasion.

Regardless of whether or not you agree with this assessment of political conservatives, read the quote again but replace the word “conservatives” with the word “engineers”.  That version I’ve found it is absolutely true.

Those of us that work with technology for a living tend to learn new things quickly and see the world through an analytic lens.  A typical myopic side effect of that is that we get easily frustrated with people that don’t absorb complex technical issues as quickly as we do and can make jerks of ourselves in the process.  I once described this to someone as the “angry genius” syndrome and it not only ticks people off, it burns bridges longer term.

Even if you are a genius (and I’m constantly reminded that I am not), you live in a world where you need others to help you get things done and as such, you owe it to everybody involved to see things from other people’s perspectives.  Don’t assume you understand all angles of a situation and that your mastery of complexity exempts you from criticism.  Just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean others should bow before your intellect and fall in line.

Making a statement is one thing, convincing others that statement is true to the point where they not only follow allong but help you sell the idea to a broader audience is a much tougher (but more useful) accomplishment.

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One Response to “The necessity of persuasion”

  1. Tim Reynolds Says:

    Nice post. Thank you for the info. Keep it up.

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