Bullish Life: How to Really Change People’s Minds (Hint: Later)


Jennifer Dziura writes career and life advice weekly on TheGloss. Here is an archive, and here is an archive of Bullish columns from our sister site TheGrindstone.

When I was in college, the Dartmouth Rainbow Alliance led members and allies in participating in the national Day of Silence, a “national youth-run effort using silence to protest the actual silencing of LGBT people due to harassment, bias and abuse in schools.”

On a particular day, we would not speak, and we would wear buttons and hand out little cards to explain what the whole thing was about.

I was a first-year student, and being friendly, I asked this one senior whether she’d be participating. I asked in kind of the same way you ask, “Are you excited for the very exciting thing that’s about to happen?”

I was therefore surprised when she said no: the baddest-ass lesbian I knew would not be participating in the Day of Silence, because she felt that you persuade more people by making friends and just talking to them about your ideas. Taping your mouth shut kind of separates you from people.

I did do the Day of Silence, even though it was the day I was scheduled to read my short story aloud in my fiction class. Instead, another student read it for me. My professor commented, “Well, this kind of defeats the purpose…,” but she couldn’t really insist that I do it myself because then she would look homophobic, despite the fact that I strongly doubted that anyone in my fiction writing class was particularly homophobic to begin with.

While I think that something like a Day of Silence helps to get young people involved in activism and could really make people think in an environment where maybe a lot of people haven’t really thought about how LGBT people are silenced, my creative writing class was not one of those places. I felt like a jackass.

I’ve spent a really long time thinking about how to persuade people.

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    • Lastango

      I’m glad you brought up this interesting, worthwhile theme. When it comes to convincing other people, the single best group of approaches I’m aware of is Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. It is packed full of do-able concepts and tips. Chapters have titles like:
      == You can’t win an argument.
      == How to get cooperation.
      == Let the other person save face.
      == Talk about your own mistakes first.
      == Give a dog a good name.
      Carnegie summarizes that last chapter as, “Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to”, which sounds close to your thought about appealing to someone’s sense of the kind of person they would like to become. It is the opposite of what Carnegie says is an old expression: “Give a dog a bad name and you might as well hang him”.

    • Girl Detective

      For some reason all (or most?) of the links are redirecting to “I’m too sexy” a survey of male beauty >>http://www.thegloss.com/2008/12/19/beauty/%E2%80%9Ci%E2%80%99m-too-sexy%E2%80%9D-say-majority-of-american-men-in-global-male-beauty-survey/

      • Candace

        They are working now! Which is good because I really wanted to read that Corey Booker article.