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Persuasive Blaming: Use With Caution

Jan 15, 2008
I have written previously about the term 'everything happens for a reason' as a technique to utilize the inherent trust many people have in this concept. I also wrote about how superstition can be a powerful persuasive tool. If you've read those articles and put the tools to work in your life, you already understand the power they hold.

Well, assigning blame is the other side of the 'everything happens for a reason'/'there are no accidents' coin. Wherein both of these concepts use our prospect's belief in an ordered, equitable universe, assigning blame uses a common enemy as a means to persuade.

This might appear on the surface a little controversial. I intend absolutely no disrespect, especially in terms of religious orientation. I am a very spiritual person and believe fully in the freedom of religion. But by way of example, I want to show how this is a powerful persuasion technique.

In group theory, there's a lot of discussion about enemies, common enemies. One of the greatest ways you can ever use to bond a group is for them to have a common enemy.

Let's start with Christianity as an example. What's the common enemy of Christianity? Well, you probably know right off the top of your head, it's the devil. How is this installed in Christians from an early age? Well, we start saying things like, 'We as humans are born into a world of sin and the mere act of being born causes us to not be able to get into the life hereafter until and unless we accept Jesus as our savior.'

It's an intense thing to believe. And what or who is the enemy? Well, just being born because we are born into sin. And who is responsible for us being born into sin? The devil.

This is a great tool. I heard someone say many years ago, 'The devil is the best friend the Christian ever had because without him, there would be no need for a savior.' Think about the word 'savior'. Savior implies someone needs saving. And if you're born into sin, you in fact do need saving.

Again, I'm not debating any of this. In fact, I'm kind of being the devil's advocate here, so to speak, because I'm literally standing back and removing my own beliefs just to point out to you what's going on so you can see this.

Now does it mean, by the way, having a common enemy is a bad thing? No, I think common enemies are great things. But one has to be careful and responsible. Is it responsible of a Christian to say that the devil's a common enemy? Absolutely.

Also note the advantage of pointing at a common enemy that you can't see, you can't hear, and in fact, even humanities basic drives and desires can be attributed to the influence of this being? It's pretty amazing.

We have an inherent need to assign blame. In fact, it's so fundamental to the core of who we are that everybody does this.

How about a political example? How about the 'War on Terror' or the 'War on Poverty'? It's virtually impossible to argue that anyone is for 'terror' or 'poverty'. These are cultural common enemies. Terror and poverty, however, are concepts, not actual, tangible physical groups against which a war can be won, but notice how insanely powerful as enemies. If winning a 'war' against a concept were possible, I'd sign up and fight.

I'm contrasting 'things happen for a reason' with 'blame.'

A word of warning: I wouldn't dwell in the land of negativity, it's like a double-edged sword. It cuts going and coming. Be very careful.
About the Author
Kenrick Cleveland teaches strategies to earn the business of affluent clients using persuasion. He runs public and private seminars and offers home study courses and coaching programs in persuasion strategies.
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