The Dandelion Group

Technique of the week

Hard vs soft line

How do we prevent coming across as boring without being too bold? Making a new point without making new enemies is possible if we pick the right position. 

Welsh marxist Raymon Williams once said “To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing”. An extreme statement sends a clear message that motivates people yet might not resonate with the entire audience. Taking a soft line is a safer approach when you appeal to moderates but not in other situations. Imagine, for example, you would run for office and have to debate an opponent whose voters do not overlap with yours. Here, you have not much too lose and should mobilise your supporters with ambitious proposals.

How to pick the right line

  1. Draft your statement and guess how many of your target audience support your idea, oppose it and are indifferent.
    (e.g. We have to do more to fight global warming. - 50% in favour, 25% against, 25% indifferent)

  2. If the majority is on your side, prepare rebuttal points as the debate might get heated.
    (e.g. It is good that we have just increased our target for green house gas emissions reductions but global temperature will still rise to more than 1.5 °C causing Amsterdam to sink.)

  3. If the majority is indifferent or disagrees with you, sharpen the proposal and consider a harder line.
    (e.g. introduce a one-child policy because every new human being produces more emissions than anything else.)

  4. Do a reality check by testing the proposal with a member of the audience beforehand.
    (If the person laughs, chances are good that s/he believes that the idea is insane nor extreme.)

  5. Revise the proposal accordingly to ensure that you get the attention of the room and present something serious.

Exercise

You are Jin Xing, the “Oprah Winfrey” of China. Peking University invited you to a panel debate with a male communist politician and a Taoist priest where you should give a speech on improving transgender rights. Develop two proposals, one with a hard and one with a soft line, and list the pros and cons of each stance. 

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Ben WilhelmComment