Persuasive Encounters: Case Studies in Constructive Confrontation

By Gary C. Woodward | Go to book overview

2
Persuasive Encounters: A Theoretical Overview

I had rather be their servant in my way Than sway with them in theirs.1 William Shakespeare

When considered from its traditional model as an adjustive process, persuasion that is specifically addressed to a hostile audience looks like a strategic mistake. Our instincts tell us that bald challenges to attitudes that others firmly hold are almost certainly doomed to failure. We usually act on the assumption that any successful persuasive message will find as many ways as possible to soften differences that separate communicators. In this view, attitude change-if it comes at all -- occurs only after careful adaptation has cleared a path of common ground that everyone can follow.

This valid assumption is partly what accounts for the drama of the encounters that follow, but it is at least partly mistaken. The purpose of the first half of this chapter is to trace in broad strokes two very different intellectual traditions that have been used to account for communication that deals with conflict. Most theories for predicting and analyzing persuasion fall into one of these patterns. The first focuses on the assumed requirement for adaptation, a requirement that seems to lie at the very nexus of successful communication. The second, resting on both old and new observations about the use of persuasive discourse as an advisory tool, challenges this requirement by providing psychological and ethical justifications for risking verbal conflict. Whether or not persuaders think in the terms of these traditions, most must still cope with the different options they

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Persuasive Encounters: Case Studies in Constructive Confrontation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • Title Page *
  • 1 - The Politics of Confrontation: From John Lennon to Wendell Phillips 1
  • Notes 23
  • 2 - Persuasive Encounters: A Theoretical Overview 27
  • Notes 49
  • 3 - Edward Kennedy: Behind Enemy Lines 53
  • Notes 75
  • 4 - "This Just Might Do Nobody Any Good": Edward R. Murrow and the News Directors 77
  • Notes 96
  • 5 - The Theater of Conflict: "Donahue" in Russia 99
  • Notes 129
  • 6 - Thomas Szasz and the War against Coercive Psychiatry 133
  • Notes 159
  • 7 - "How Am I Doing?": Gorilla Politics in the Town Meetings of Ed Koch 163
  • Notes 185
  • Selected Bibliography 189
  • Index 193
  • About the Author *
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