|Most of us think
of ourselves as intelligent, logical, rational beings. Naturally, we
expect the people we work with to possess the same traits.
Why is it, then, that we so often feel
surrounded by fools and incompetents? The answer: We are surrounded
by fools and incompetents.
Walk into any office, and you’ll see
them clustered by the water cooler. Take the elevator to another floor,
and you’ll spot them sitting at their computers with dazed eyes and
expressionless faces. Throw open a few doors, and you’ll find them huddled
in small groups dreaming up new ways to make you miserable.
They’re everywhere. The great mystery of
the business world is, who are these knuckleheads, and where do they all
come from? Well, let’s be honest. All too often, we are they.
There are times, I suspect, when we
don’t seem as intelligent, logical, and rational to those around us as we
think we are -- particularly when we’re trying to advance a point of view
or defend a position in the heat of an argument.
To help prevent you from sounding
like one of them, I recommend that you observe four simple rules of
evidence and avoid seven common fallacies when writing persuasively.
To be effective, the evidence you use to
support your argument must be sufficient, complete,
accurate, and relevant. Anything less may undermine your
credibility and leave your audience unconvinced.
To be sufficient, your evidence
must meet the needs of the situation and satisfy the doubts of your
audience. To be complete, it must include all the necessary facts
and information. To be accurate, it must correctly reflect the
situation in question and be free of misleading information. And to be
relevant, it must be pertinent to the issue at hand.
Likewise, to come across as the
intelligent person you know you are (rather than as the fool you hope
you’re not), avoid these common fallacies:
Presenting a false premise,
as in asserting that employee morale is low when in reality only a few,
vocal employees are unhappy.
that a premise is accepted by the audience,
as in making a claim such as, "Our only option is to close the branch
office," when in fact other options are being considered.
few examples to support an assertion,
as in citing the successful advertising campaign of one competitor as a
reason for revamping your own advertising strategy.
irrelevant evidence or examples,
as in alluding to the management practices of one country when trying to
solve a culture-based problem in another country.
hominem (or "to the man") attacks,
as in questioning the intelligence, competence, or ethics of the person
advancing an argument rather than refuting the argument itself.
as in making faulty assumptions regarding an entire group, race, class, or
sex on the basis of the behavior or example of a few individuals.
(or seeking to derive a broader conclusion than the evidence warrants), as
in claiming that, because a new product has sold well in one part of the
country, it will sell well in all parts of the country.
So think twice before you let fly with a
retort such as this: "Those bozos can’t even manage their own budget, and
now they’re telling us to reduce our costs. We’re the only
department even trying to hold down costs. Nobody around here appreciates
how much we’re able to accomplish with so few resources."
A more considered response might better
reflect your skills of persuasion -- to say nothing of your competence and