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Published June 07, 2011 in Talking Points by Sharon Harris
Ouch! Libertarians sometimes get hit with hostile questions from people who don't understand the ideas of liberty and free markets.
Mention free markets, ending the War on Drugs, or replacing government schools with private alternatives, for example, and some people will go ballistic. They will think you're crazy, or have evil intentions, or both -- and they'll let you know it.
"End government welfare? Do you hate the poor?"
"Make drugs legal? Do you want our streets filled with crazed addicts and criminals?"
"No government schools? Do you want a nation of illiterates? Don't you care about our children?"
Sound familiar? It's easy for a conversation to quickly degenerate from here into a shouting match, or a meaningless exchange of slogans and rhetoric.
But there's a far better way to respond. Use the Ransberger Pivot!
The Ransberger Pivot is one of the most effective communication tools I know. Invented in 1982 by Ray Ransberger and Advocates Founder Marshall Fritz, the Pivot is a great way to defuse hostility and get your questioner on *your* side.
The Ransberger Pivot is quite simple -- but it doesn't come naturally. It takes some practice. But the payoff makes it well worth the effort.
There are three steps to the Pivot:
Step 1: Stay calm and *listen* to what the questioner is asking.
Step 2: Ask yourself what the person is really concerned about. What does he really want? Make an intelligent guess.
Step 3: If you want the same thing (and 99% of the time you will), strongly express your desire for that same outcome. Show your questioner you share the same core values on this issue.
Let's look at the Ransberger Pivot in action.
Your questioner asks: "You libertarians want to get rid of public schools, don't you? What about our children?"
You ask yourself: What is this person *really* concerned about? What does he want?
Obviously, he wants children to be educated. A great goal! You want this, too, right?
So you respond something like this: "Like you, I too want to live in a world where all children are educated. In fact, where children have access to a far better education than they have now."
Bingo! That's the Pivot. You've bypassed a potential argument, and instead established a strong common ground with your questioner. Instead of immediately launching into a disagreement, you've found agreement and shared values.
Now you can go on to a constructive discussion of the best ways to achieve the end you both agree is worthwhile.
Of course, you then must have a good answer to that question. You need to know the facts -- in this case, a persuasive case for why the private sector offers the best opportunity to dramatically improve education.
But The Ransberger Pivot is a vital transition, or prelude, to that answer. It plays a crucial role by defusing hostility, and thus making your questioner, and other listeners, more ready to hear your answer with an open mind.
Remember: when people ask hostile questions, they often are questioning your motives. They assume you disagree with their concerns, they think you have different values, and they may even believe you have bad intentions.
The Ransberger Pivot is a kind of verbal judo or aikido. It takes the steam out of the hostility by demonstrating that you share the questioner's concerns. This in turn offers the opportunity for rapport. Your listeners are then more likely to pay attention to your answer, and you increase your chance of persuading them to your point of view.
Get tips and suggestions from Sharon Harris along with experts Michael Cloud, Mary Ruwart, and David Bergland with The Very Best Ways You Can Communicate Libertarian Ideas - Panel Discussion.