Opinion

How to Convince People to Support Your Presidential Candidate

There’s one thing you should never do at all costs. 
ILLUSTRATOR WARREN ESPEJO
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With just months left until the 2022 national elections in the Philippines, tensions are running high, and toxicity on social media is fuelled by overzealous supporters campaigning for their presidential candidates. 

Mga bobo talaga supporters niya, kahit magnanakaw iboboto pa.”

DDS 2.0 itong mga Kakampinks.”

Mga utu-uto lang naman kayo!”

Yung trolls nga, binabayaran ng P30,000 a month, tapos ikaw, tanga lang for free!”

If the people behind these statements are going to do a bit of introspection, they should ask themselves: Am I genuinely trying to convince people to change their minds, or am I submitting to my baser instincts attacking the people I am supposed to be convincing? Am I gratifying myself with these posts in my effort to prove I am right?

It’s so easy to give in and react to political posts, but before you do, think about what really convinces people to join your side. How do you persuade people to change their minds and support your candidate?

Here are three simple tips, according to the experts.

1| Never Attack the Opponent’s Supporters.

Attacking the supporters of a candidate is a trap many people find themselves in. It only shows they have a poor command of persuasion. How could you expect to win voters when you are attacking the same people who could swing to your candidate’s side?

This is the number one rule in election persuasion: Never attack the opponent’s supporters. This will only alienate them and bolster their support for their candidate. Why would they believe you and switch to supporting your candidate if you keep calling them stupid, uneducated, and fanatics?

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According to strategist and management consultant Trina Allen, instead of arguing with people, you should instead give them a reason to trust you.

“After people believe that you care, they will start processing whether they can trust you. But it will go deeper for them. As sure as you are reading this, your listeners will be internally questioning whether they should trust you. People need to feel comfortable working with you and with how you present yourself to them,” Allen writes in Forbes.

This was also championed by associate professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, Lara Huang, and MBA student at HBS, Ryan Yu, who said that in order to persuade someone, you need to invest time in personally learning about and building rapport with them.

“It’s not about arguments or presentation, at least initially, but understanding their perspective and why they might feel personally affronted,” wrote Huang and Yu in Harvard Business Review.

2| Cut Down on Facts and Appeal to Their Emotions.

In 2017, Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Kolbert wrote a piece for The New Yorker with a controversial but truthful title: “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds.” In this piece, Kolbert highlights the limitations of human reason and explains why facts are almost useless in persuasion. She mentions appealing to people’s emotions as a possible alternative but concedes that it seems antithetical.

But it works.

Certain candidates are already using this to their advantage, even disregarding long-held facts and appealing to the people’s emotions using imagery of a grand past and a promise of treasures if elected. Absurd but effective.

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But that does not mean you should present alternative truths.

According to Psychology Today, when people would like something to be true, they end up believing it to be true. They hardwire that belief as fact, rejecting anything that does not support it, no matter how compelling it is. This is called confirmation bias.

This means you cannot convince the majority of people with hard numbers, figures, and data, no matter how stellar these are. Instead of parading economic figures and the accomplishments of your candidate, appeal to people’s emotions based on these facts. Use photos and videos. Employ power words. Stoke curiosity. Use memes.

3| Shut Up.

No one really needs to read your toxic social media posts that only feed your ego in the guise of “campaigning” for your candidate. Have you really tried being empathetic and shutting up to listen?

“The purpose is to persuade, not to prove who is right.”

John Molo, professor of Constitutional Law at U.P. Law-BGC, where he also chairs the Political Law Cluster of the Faculty, suggests that in order to persuade effectively, you need to shut up.

“Unfortunately, effective persuasion requires something counter-intuitive: Listening. Yes, to persuade, we need to shut up,” Molo says in his Rappler piece. “Listening requires accepting the answer—whatever it is. Remember, the purpose is to persuade, not to prove who is right.”

“Follow-up studies recommend shifting away from ‘educating’ and moving towards persuasion, especially if the goal is to convert undecided voters. Persuasion works in all demographics,” adds Molo.

In Other Words...

The election is set on a battleground not based on facts but on emotion. People are drawn to feelings and powerful images, not the records from the National Economic Development Authority.

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And most important of all, never attack the opponent’s supporters. You cannot persuade people with a megaphone on social media, especially if you’re spewing vitriol against the supporters of another candidate. You are contributing to their campaign by being toxic against them. 

Persuading people requires humility and a genuine desire to listen to them and understand them. Stop arguing how you are right. Confirmation bias will render your efforts futile.

Try listening.

Or if you can’t, just help your candidate by shutting the fuck up. 

Sources:

Allen, Trina. (2020). “Persuasion: How To Convince People To Act On Your Great Ideas.” Forbes. Retrieved from forbes.com on 22 November 2021. 

Heshmat, Shahram. (2015). “What Is Confirmation Bias?” Psychology Today. Retrieved from psychologytoday.com on 21 November 2021. 

Huang, Lara; Yu, Ryan. (2020). “How to (Actually) Change Someone’s Mind.” Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from hbr.org on 22 November 2021. 

Kolbert, Elizabeth. (2017). “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds.” The New Yorker. Retrieved from newyorker.com on 21 November 2021. 

Molo, John. (2021). “Persuade, Not Educate.” Rappler. Retrieved from rappler.com on 23 November 2021. 



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Mario Alvaro Limos
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