Anecdotes and Arguments

“Anecdotes are sometimes the best vehicles of truth, and if striking and appropriate, are often more impressive than argument.”

The above quote from Tryon Edwards, the 19th century American Theologian, gives us a potent tool for attaining success in tight situations. Tryon was renowned for his compilation, A Dictionary of Thoughts, an impressive compendium of quotes.

In the above words, the author has given us a striking resemblance to a real-life situation where we lose legitimate arguments due to the opponent’s use of strikingly more convincing anecdotes. No wonder, good story-tellers enjoy an excellent reputation when it comes to crowd-pleasing or turning the tide of public opinion as in elections.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the 18th-century German writer, and statesman said: “A collection of anecdotes and maxims is the greatest of treasures for the man of the world, for he knows how to intersperse conversation with the former in fit places, and to recollect the latter on proper occasions.”

I am positive most of my readers have experienced a situation in life where someone scored a point by narrating an anecdote or presenting a forceful argument with the help of a maxim.

By default, we are programmed to look for the positive even in the worst of a negative situation, no matter what. When a sudden, natural disaster strikes, we display exemplary courage by positive actions of providing the necessary rescue operations.

As an aftermath of the ugly and unacceptable incidents of mass violence, we show solidarity on a global scale, so the victims feel a sigh of relief, although temporary. The cry of relief for the real-life humans at such a site is that the incident or the calamity has passed.

Their argument for urgent remedial measures supports rehabilitation, without any consideration for cost and logistics. In such instances, anecdote finds no place while arguments prevail, a case for the positive, a discussion on behalf of the victims, and an even stronger argument to find permanent solutions against repetition of such catastrophes.

On the contrary, anecdotes seem to prevail in most economic decisions whether at home, at work, in the ‘C’ Suite or the government. Great salespeople always win the most significant deals whereas an ordinary salesman fails to come up with an exciting or enticing anecdote. He may have the most persuasive argument in favor of his product, but the relevance of a suitable anecdote prevails hands down.

Why is it so, because the prospect is made to believe, in an exemplary form of how his selection of any other product could have far-reaching consequences similar to those in the anecdote.

Anecdotes have the power to divert the attention of the listeners from the issue at hand to the personality of the narrator. It helps build an affinity, an open line of communication, and enhances the trust factor beyond imagination.

Almost every household becomes a mute witness to the power of arguments on a regular basis. In some cases, weak arguments rely on anecdotes to lend weight. When it is time to make a significant purchase decision, like a brand new car or a larger house, each family member's thoughts and expectations deserve recognition.

If one likes a white sedan, the other wants a red truck. If the parents are preparing to buy a three-bedroom rancher, the kids insist on a four-bedroom detached bungalow so they could each have their privacy.

In situations like this, the family budget gets shredded to pieces as the most persuasive arguments ultimately prevail. Anecdotes have no relevance in such circumstances.

Management skills are so much easier to sharpen by way of story-telling. Those in command of this technique have a much easier way with their teams as anecdotal references support their arguments. The spell-binding effect of your story has the power to convert a challenge into motivation.

By letting your workforce identify with a character in your account you can help them generate a high level of willingness to prove their capabilities against all the odds.

Your readiness to come up with a relevant anecdote can help you make friends in the most unexpected places and convert your most bitter opponents into the most ardent followers.

Make sure you can unquestionably connect with what you say, and with what you want them to do. Create a sense of belonging, an urgent need for accomplishment, and an inspiration loud enough for the team to identify itself with the goal.

How do we acquire the necessary skills to come up with relevant anecdotes when and where needed? The answer lies in our willingness to learn. One simple secret is to read articles written by various authors willing to share their thoughts, ideas, trials, tribulations, and life experiences. You will quickly start building up a mental library of relevant anecdotes, quotes, and inspirational banter.

Before we proceed further, please let me share with you a quote from a now unknown author: “Those who do not read are no better off than those who cannot read!”

I will let you decide what you like the most or how you might want to proceed in the direction of scoring your life’s goals and attain success against tough challenges.

“As we grow old, our bodies get shorter and our anecdotes longer.” Robert Quillen, the 20th-century American journalist and humorist from Fountain Inn in S. Carolina gave us these words of wisdom. His office and library have appeared on the National Register of Historic Places.

Looking at the above quote with a magnifying glass, you will find a lot of relevance since age helps us collect an encyclopedia of the same. Our varied experiences sometimes leave an indelible impression on our psyche that lasts a lifetime.

Majority of the stories we heard from others combined with the ones that we shared within our circle of family and friends take the form of anecdotes that we continue to remember for later use. When the time comes, we come out with our version of the same as our waning memory leaves its mark as well.

It is true the human body tends to shrink with age; it is also true that we start to enjoy more free time after having met our routine obligations in a given capacity. Getting rid of the majority of our responsibilities forces us to look for pastime, and this is where we forget that our audience is still engaged in productive pursuits.

We try to ‘kill’ time while others want to put it to better use. The unfolding situation sometimes takes us farther away from our loved ones. It happens due to our long narratives, unending anecdotes, and expectations of undeserved applaud.

When such a stage appears in our life, it shall be a wise decision for us to refrain from opening up our vault of anecdotes and arguments unless someone specifically asks for the same.

Retirement in its pure form should give us a new attitude towards life so we could perform acts that generate respect for our acquired wisdom.

Without letting the younger generation confront us with its argument of privacy, let us remember those anecdotes from life that our elders shared with us as life-changing resolutions, nothing else.

Share what brought change in your own life and leave the rest. Let your followers relate to the examples you set for them. Let your personal life be the most significant anecdotal reference that magnifies your techniques to handle tough situations.

Live life to leave a legacy!

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