Transcript: The Art of Persuasion (EP61)
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Brendan: Welcome to The Culture of Things podcast with Brendan Rodgers. This is a podcast where we talk about all things culture, leadership, and teamwork across business and sport. To all our loyal listeners, The Culture of Things podcast will now have specific episodes produced for YouTube. To ensure you don't miss out on this exclusive YouTube content, head over to YouTube, click on the subscribe button, and hit the notification bell. Now let's get into the episode.
Hello and welcome to The Culture of Things podcast. I'm your host, Brendan Rogers, and this is episode 61. Today, I'm talking with Dr. Dan French. Dan, how are you buddy? Welcome to The Culture of Things podcast.
Dan: Hey. I've been looking forward to The Culture of Things podcast. Good to be here.
Brendan: I've been looking forward to having you on. Just so we can share a little bit of your background and build up some credibility, I'm going to go through a bit of your bio so the listeners can have a bit of an understanding of who the hell this guy is sitting in Austin, Texas. Sounds all right?
Dan: Yeah, sounds good. Let's do it.
Brendan: All right. Dan always had three careers. He's an educator and language-centric intellectual. He taught rhetoric persuasion, TV writing, screenwriting, communication studies at university level for almost two decades. He's an entertainment professional. Dan was a professional standup comedian for 30+ years, as well as a pro comedy writing producer for many TV and film projects. He's also an organizational consultant and marketer who has advised and worked for companies and organizations as diverse as fertility startups and the Naval War College.
Now, Dr. Dan is literally the only person in the world with two Emmy nominations for late night comedy writing and a PhD in rhetoric. He is the co-creator of Heft which is the world's best online business bio builder. He's also the host of the Rhetoric Warriors Podcast. Dan says Rhetoric Warriors is a way to improve how we do persuasion in a culture so that we learn how to persuade, counter persuade, de-persuade and defend against all forms of unethical persuasion. The focus of our conversation today is the art of persuasion. Dan, you sound like a pretty credible dude.
Dan: Yeah, there is some stuff in there. I've got some degrees. I've got some places, so clearly, lots of credibility.
Brendan: You've been around. You've been around in a good way, mate.
Dan: Yeah. I've done some stuff, for sure.
Brendan: I've mentioned Austin, Texas, is Austin, Texas now the world's most famous town because Joe Rogan lives there? What’s going on in this place? Why is it so cool?
Dan: As the pandemic spread out and destroyed the economy, and the coasts imploded and everybody was forced to live inside, they suddenly started thinking why am I paying all this rent in California and New York? Where else could I go? Austin basically advertises itself as a little coastal city. It's liberal, it was supposed to have a media scene, it’s supposed to be cool and hip, so they all rushed here and Joe Rogan led the comet, dragging them all behind him.
Brendan: I'm not sure about Rogan, but you’ve been in Austin, Texas for a while so maybe they're following you, realizing the good things all of a sudden.
Dan: Yeah, I suddenly jumped up into the collective consciousness and they're like that guy living in that two-bedroom house in Austin. That's where we need to go.
Brendan: Absolutely. I'm so glad I met you. We had a great conversation a few weeks ago now thanks to our producer, my business partner, Mark, who made the introduction for us. It’s absolutely fantastic having you on the podcast today. Let’s get into a topic. You've got this PhD in Rhetoric. Do you just want to tell us what the hell is this topic ‘rhetoric’?
Dan: Usually when people hear the word rhetoric, they challenge me about whether it's real. Is that a real degree? I've never heard of that degree. Rhetoric itself has been limited down into a small subset of rhetoric, which is political rhetoric, empty rhetoric. When people talk about rhetoric, well that's just rhetoric, meaning hollow talk, meaning talk that’s florid and designed but is hiding something. That's the culture's main definition for rhetoric. A lot of times when I put rhetorical words up there or tell people rhetoric, they look at me suspiciously.
The second element of it is that it's manipulation, that anybody who studies persuasion must be doing manipulation. That comes from all the social science issues of the 50s when they were putting music cues inside your Muzak when you're at McDonald's to make you eat faster, and the commercials were subliminal messages. Rhetoric is slandered in the culture. But if you actually understand rhetoric is, it studies persuasion all the way back from the Greeks, pre-Socratic, to the Sophist or pre-Sophist, to Aristotle and all the way to now, which is postmodern, hyper-modern theory about language use in public.
Rhetoric, just the simplest definition, I made my kids learn this when they were little, because they're like, what do you do? I'm like, I study effective messaging. That’s the most condensed definition I have. It's message effectiveness. What can you do to a message to maximize its effectiveness with an audience? There you go, two minutes. That's my whole field
Brendan: Should we end the episode now?
Dan: I think everybody's got more than they can digest already.
Brendan: Well again, I don't know how many times I say this on the podcast episode, but it always fascinates me how people get into the spaces that they hope to enjoy and love. You've been in this space a long time. You've got a PhD in it. What was it about this field that fascinated you so much to do the level of study you've done?
Dan: Well, most people learn influence. Everyone knows about influence. Everybody uses influence in their lives. You can't avoid it as a human being. When you walk out the door, you have chosen clothes because you know how they're going to be interpreted basically that day. That is a rhetorical act to match your clothing messaging to what you intend to get done that day or to avoid problems with certain target audiences because you know they won't like the way you're dressed.
We are constantly doing informal structuring of messaging. It's just you don't do it with formal study. When you actually add in formal to your informal learning, you start to learn that your informal learning is pretty limited. You get habituated to certain types of persuasion versus being able to look at the whole range of persuasion and make choices about what might work best.
What got me interested in this was that sense of range of rhetoric. It literally can study any form of human messaging. That goes from politics, to philosophy, to business, sales, really anything, relationships. When you talk to your wife—you're married, right?
Brendan: I am.
Dan: Okay. You adjust how you talk.
Brendan: My lovely wife, I should say absolutely, I love her dearly.
Dan: See? Right. You have a wife terminology. You have a wife language. You've developed it and it works, I assume.
Brendan: Most of the time.
Dan: Yeah. You have to go to some of your alternatives when there are certain stressful situations—you got other things—but you've developed that with that person. It’s a set of messaging that's very unique to you, even though it's generic to probably males in a certain culture in a certain way of doing relationships, but you've adapted it, scripted it, and that works in your life.
When you study rhetoric, you can literally go, I want to study how people do that with films, how do they make successful documentaries. I want to study that with conversations, how do people create successful conversations. That's what attracted me at first. You can study anything.
Brendan: Yeah. It's certainly an area that opened my eyes, just doing a bit of study on myself, research, and trying to understand the topic a little bit more so that I can actually find some meaningful questions today. I was just fascinated with the link to some of the work that I do around leadership, culture, and the foundations.
Particularly through your book, The 21 Coliseums, which I've read—absolutely fantastic book, I highly recommend it, loved it—there's a term you used and when I met you, we talked a bit about ethical versus unethical persuasion. Can you unpack that a bit for us so we understand it?
Dan: I brand Rhetoric Warriors as the power of ethical-only persuasion. The reason that is because I jumped back into this. I taught for 20 years in universities to 18 year olds way before they were ready to hear this stuff. Then I went into entertainment full-time on TV, and then I started working in marketing and selling persuasion theory and work to businesses once the pandemic hit and Trump came over and broke open American politics. Really, politics is broken up all around the world now. Social media has opened up new possibilities for rhetorics, for what I call rhetoric storms, which is a collective way of talking that has been around for a long time.
America always had a far right. It was the KKK. There are white supremacists. It was all the small tiny groups. Suddenly, the way that they talk has now gotten into the mainstream and it's through social media. Network TV would never have let that stuff in. Fox came in, opened the door and let a lot of it in. Then cable let a lot of it in. Right Wing AM radio was the first place where it all got in. Before that, it was them handing out flyers and having secret meetings. The rhetoric is exactly the same, but national politicians, national organizations, and national media outlets are now allowing it.
It's a pretty powerful rhetoric and America does not know what to do with it. A lot of countries do not know what to do with it. They don't know how to counter it. We're going to have to grow up really fast politically and rhetorically. My big problem with the right isn't always with the positions. It's with the rhetoric. They use unethical rhetorical techniques to get their message out. Being non-transparent is an unethical technique.
If somebody ever asks me what I'm trying to get in this situation, I'll tell them. I'm very transparent about my motives. I'll tell them what techniques I'm going to use. I'm very open because that's an ethical approach to messaging. When you're trying to be dodgy, and make things slick and difficult to penetrate, that's not really ethical rhetoric. That's unethical rhetoric that is trying to hide your motives and hide your techniques.
The right is incredibly based on unethical rhetorical techniques. It’s dangerous. That's dangerous to the health of your public discourse. It's dangerous to people who don't know how to protect themselves from it. It is dangerous to your politics.
Brendan: You're mentioning right. Maybe here, we call it far right. Would that not equally apply for (say) the far left as well? Wouldn’t they have their own version of rhetoric?
Dan: Sure. Everything's a rhetoric. Think of it this way. I like to think of it as rhetoric storms. If you get any strong perspective, it creates this collection of words, beliefs, images, attacks, and all this stuff. It becomes its own little storm and you can access it. But the far left uses very different rhetoric than the far right. Again, it goes back to technique. I tell people a lot of times when I have them on my podcast, I don't care what you believe. Like Anthony Fauci over here, head of the virus immunology?
Brendan: Something like that. I think people know his name more than his title.
Dan: Yeah. Anyway, he's worked with viruses for 40 or 50 years. He's become a polarized figure because he stepped into our politics. Trump dragged him into politics, put him up in front of everybody on the podium, and then attacked him. That's a very traditional political activity being attacked.
Well, scientists are not used to being attacked. The question is, is he wonderful? Is he some type of utopian laudable great figure? Or is he horrible? Is he the devil? Is he dangerous? I don't care which one you believe. What I cared about was the process in the middle of how you get to that belief.
For me, I typically think the guy seems fine. He seems like a scientist. He's ethical. He cares about people. He's trying to do all these things. I can show you evidence of when he says these things and why I think that way. If you take it to the right, they're making claims a lot of times that evidence or their evidence is very thin. I really care about that, if you're making thin claims based on wispy evidence, that's a problem for a rhetorician. It's the process that matters, not really the conclusions.
Brendan: I have heard and watched some of that through your episodes in Rhetoric Warriors and some of the conversations you've had. What strikes me as again fascinating is that you must have an extreme level of self-awareness to remain so calm in the conversations you're having. I guess that if I've understood some of the information in The 21 Coliseums of Persuasion book that you've written, that fits fairly and squarely into the ethos side. Would that be right?
Dan: Yeah. There are so many persuasion techniques. The reason why I wrote 21 Coliseums and started with that is Aristotle's major definition of persuasion. It's been the dominant definition of rhetoric and persuasion for 2500 years ever since he wrote it. A rhetorician is someone who is able to see all the available means of persuasion and choose the right one. In order to do that, you first have to see all the available options. That's what's really missing in an informal learning approach to persuasion.
There may be very persuasive sales people for example who learned through an occupation. They learned through trial and error, through experimentation, through observation. They may take some courses. They may read some books. They get to a point where they may be good in this one area, but you lift them out of that, take them over here and drop them into a parenting role, and they do what's called perseveration. They continue to use the techniques over here over here where they don't apply. They don't have the same strength. They're inappropriate.
What a rhetorician will do is go, no, here's the grid. There are 21 big arenas. I'm going to move out of logic entirely. I may not even use language. I may move over here just do relationship building. I have two kids and I basically tell them they are 20-year rhetorical experiments.
Brendan: Guinea pigs.
Dan: I designed them to accept my forms of persuasion. I trained them from very, very young ages because I wanted them to accept the way I like to persuade and I did it on purpose. I told them I did it.
Brendan: That almost sounds like mothers to me. I know you're a father, but that almost sounds like mothers.
Dan: Yeah. I think mothers are very cognizant of structures, using the same structures so the kids adjust to it. Once a mom has a strong theory, it's really hard to get her off of it. One of the theories I hear a lot is to set boundaries for kids and then follow through with consequences. You have to be consistent in all this. I'm like, well, maybe. I get it. I get why that would be an acceptable system. I didn't do that with my kids because I didn't want my kids to feel like they were boundaries.
I grew up Catholic in a working class neighbourhood which was very heavy on boundaries. I don't like that feeling. I want them to not have the feeling that there are always limits around me. I want them to have the feeling that I'm free to do many things, but I'm going to make a good choice here because I know it's going to work out best for me. That's very different from imposing structures around them. I am imposing, hey look at your options. Here are some ways to process those and then make a choice that you think's going to work out really well for you. There you go. I've trained them to do that.
Brendan: What are you trying to achieve on this journey? There’s Rhetoric Warriors, there’s your background PhD in rhetoric, your courses on your website are extremely well-priced. You talk about it's not about the extreme level of process. It’s just getting into as many people's hands as possible. There's got to be something driving that $25 dollars (I think) for a couple of your courses. It's fantastic value for what you get. What is that driver? What are you trying to achieve through this journey you're on?
Dan: There's a big communication requirement on my side with this stuff. Even the idea of going, hey, there are 21 big areas here. Each one of those needs its own book, maybe two or three books. The book that I started working on right after I finished 21 Coliseums was—again it's American-centric—why can't America think? What has happened to our capacity to do rational thought? It turns out if you actually look at what's happened like the way that the mind is affected by things like the media, by things like speed culture, our brains are not adapted to this.
It's broken down some of the basic rationality structures that we've learned. Then you look at the fact that nobody gets trained in logic or rationality. Sometimes, people will maybe take a class here. They might take a little math. Some philosophers will get some logic. But the vast majority of the population is just doing their informal understanding of logic.
Logic is weird. It's very weird. It's very difficult to learn because it goes astray really easily. I think we talked about this when we were talking before. Just take one little concept of logic, a qualifier, which is a very important piece of logic. What a qualifier does is it sets up the scope of your statement.
Sometimes this is important, or this is always important, or this is never important. That word—sometimes, never, always—changes everything. People don't control their qualifiers. When I talk to people and that's when I'm like, you can never be a rhetorician in an argument because I'm hearing about your grid. I'm seeing your matrix. I'm bad with qualifiers. I’ll mess around with that and see what we can do.
Brendan: I have to say, this interview is probably the most nervous I've been in an interview. Even though we've got a relationship in talking and stuff, I’m wondering how Dan is perceiving this whole process, even though I ask my questions.
Dan: I'm ethical.
Brendan: Yeah, you’re ethical, I know. I'm not saying you're doing it in a bad way, but just even the way I asked the question, because that's some of the conversation we did have when we met and some feedback. I asked you what is it about what I'm doing, or even actually let me ask you how are my head movements today when I asked the question?
Dan: Yeah, I was gonna say, you look like you've made some adaptations.
Brendan: I do like we take feedback on where appropriate.
Dan: Nice. We talk about nonverbal behavioural messaging. Most men had learned to be very stable in their body, face, and head movements. That's not conducive usually to a good conversation or to a good relationship because it looks like you're not interested. We talked about you moving your head more. I did this at the very beginning of when you were introducing me. If people go back and look at the tape, I consciously do this. I move, I nod, I'll smile while you're talking because otherwise I'm just sitting here going.
Brendan: I thought you’re just grooving to the beat, mate. You mentioned relationships earlier. On The Culture of Things podcast, we're always linking it back to cultural leadership and teamwork. How important is this relationship coliseum to the whole picture of influence rhetoric persuasion?
Dan: What I would tell people is the book is the starting place. If you read that book, you're gonna get oriented to all the things that you need to learn. I try to put up a few good lessons into each one of those chapters. One of the chapters talks about situations. Organizations are situations. Their settings of persuasion. Once you walk into a business, you have to know its atmosphere, its culture, because those have already set limits on you, and expectations, and terminologies.
I see this a lot. I've only worked with businesses for the last seven years or so since I started this digital marketing, but I've learned over time the language work with businesses is so different. I have to kind of rip them out of their comfortable rhetoric storm and bring them over to mine. I do this consciously.
It's one of the reasons why I keep Greek stuff in my instruction, in the book. I talk about logos, mythos, ethos, and pathos because I want you to accept my terminology. Everybody wants to throw my stuff back into their terminology. They’ll be like oh, so you build brands? I'm like, no, I build ethos for companies.
What's that mean? I'm like now we're in my game because you're having to ask me what it means versus you telling me something about a brand, which to me is a lesser way of it's not that it's bad it just doesn't have the texture, theory, and all the tactics that you could pull from persuasion. Once you start looking at a brand, it's become very structured for how business does it.
Brendan: I did that to you a number of times, didn't I, in pulling you into my language. What am I trying to do there? I don't knowingly feel like I'm doing anything, but I am. What am I doing?
Dan: You're retreating to your comfort storm. This is your world, you've worked in corporations and businesses for how many years?
Dan: So you know it well, you know how people act in that world. You know tones of voice that fit in that world and tones that don't. Humor that fits and humor that doesn't. Everybody does, they want to bring you back to their storm. One of the things that work in my favor is people haven't spent time in my storm. It's kind of interesting to them. Look, I didn't even know that storm was around.
Brendan: Do you have Thai foods and stuff like that in Austin? You're the creator of these things, mate, from a wordsmith perspective.
Dan: Words are weapons for rhetoricians. They’re locations of dispute, they’re locations of competition, but they’re superpowers. Whoever controls the words is basically going to win the persuasion. Like your podcast, The Culture of Things. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but you immediately define it with something about leadership and teamwork, is it? So those are clear business terms—leadership and teamwork. What is leadership in a business? To me it's a rhetorician.
Brendan: And the word I use would be influence.
Dan: Yeah, but what does influence mean versus rhetoric?
Brendan: I'm learning there's no difference.
Dan: Oh, there's plenty of difference. The main actions are the same. We're both trying to affect another human being. But the way that you do influence, like science tries to own rhetoric as well. It calls it persuasion. There's a study of behavioral modification. Advertising, tries to own it. Marketing tries to own it. Philosophy sometimes tries to own it. Psychology definitely tries to own it. But I keep ripping you back and going, hey, go back to the source code. This is where the software came from and you're going to get better stuff than what these people are offering you.
If I can turn you into a rhetorician, Brendan, and you start thinking, I want to be a rhetorician, then you're going to absorb this new storm and it's going to give you a whole different way of doing all these things.
Brendan: From reading your book, learning more about it, and talking to you, I agree. Can I bring you back into my storm for a minute? This link of rhetoric persuasion, this whole topic today is the art of persuasion. How do we link this back to the business world and the importance around leaders’ understanding these foundations? Why is it important that they understand these foundations in whatever they're leading?
And again, I'm not sure if using the word qualify is the right way this time, but I want to qualify the fact that you don't need to be in a role that has people underneath you to be a leader.
Dan: What I would do as a rhetorician is step back and go okay, let's lay this out according to some of the terminologies, techniques, and structures that will make it rhetorical.
Say you're a boss, manager, or an employee. It doesn't really matter, but you start with the fact that you are given a certain structure, a certain power. Every role has some type of power and some types of limits of power. Essentially every time you get a promotion, they change your power limits.
If I'm coming into this situation with no power—and I do this a lot of times when I work with companies to try to give them a brand new perspective on what they're doing, which is the rhetorical perspective—I'll walk into the C-suite, as many executives they can get together, and I'll be like, hey, it's great to meet you guys. Looks like an awesome company. I need something here at the beginning, which is you guys have to understand you all have SPS. They're like, what's that? I'm like that is Smart People Syndrome.
Brendan: I love it.
Dan: It gets in my way because you're all very intelligent people, you've got experience, you've got status, you've got ways of thinking about yourself, and you're going to want to get involved in your messaging construction because you're smart.
That doesn't mean you're professionally creative. A lot of times I'm doing naming or slogan work or characters or stories, things like that for the company. I'm like you need super stories. You need super characters, super slogans, super names, which means you need super professionals to get there. You have to get out of the way. If you're involved in the mix, you're going to limit what these other people are doing because they're going to adjust to you as opposed to doing what they do, which is work with other crazy creatives.
I can bring three people in here right now, you'd be like these people are not intelligent. At least not as intelligent as you. At the end of the day, they're going to give you 30 crazy, interesting lines for what you do that you all could never have gotten to, because their brains work linguistically. I need you to understand that you need to get out of the way. I do it with comedy so it's a little more palatable. But that's a message a lot of people would like to send up the ladder to their bosses. Hey, if you get out of my way, I could probably do this a lot better.
Brendan: That is definitely a common message that people think more than say more.
Dan: So a rhetorician figures out, how can I say this and be effective, get away with it, not lose status but actually gain status? A part of the thing that I have working for me is the PhD, gives me credibility. Nobody else in that room has a PhD in Rhetoric. The fact that I wrote in Hollywood for 10 years and have Emmy nominations gives me creative credit. Once I talk, they’re like oh, this person seems like he knows what he's talking about so I get performative credit and then I can actually get them to accede to my request a little bit—about 10%—and then they want to come back.
Brendan: Some would say with a PhD because not everyone's got a PhD. You have Smart People Syndrome. Where do you have Smart People Syndrome?
Dan: I think one of the cool things about rhetoricians is we turn the same analysis on ourselves. Like you were talking about this before we started.
Brendan: What’s the conclusion?
Dan: About me? What I know is what my limits are, like I am expert in certain things, but it does not extend beyond that. When I get outside of my area of expertise, I stop talking like an expert. This is one of the lessons (I think) is really cool about (again) a rhetorical approach is you need to understand your limits because once you go outside of those, you're going to fail. You see this all the time with people trying to talk outside their area of expertise with some aura of expertise.
Politics is the ultimate location of it. Somebody will say, Donald Trump is this. I'm like, do you know him? Have you ever hung out with him? Have you had any personal interaction? Do you know anybody that knows him? You've never had any interaction with him whatsoever and yet you drew this massively concrete conclusion about that person. You do not have any expertise in that.
It's really hard. Again, I got to go slow, but I got to get them to admit they don't have an expertise in the things they have strong beliefs about. If I can get that, it lowers their guard, they quit trying to act expert and then we can have a discussion.
I did this with the Tony Fauci thing. I have an episode with a right-wing friend of mine. He was going off about Fauci having no credibility and things like that. I'm like, well, do you think Fauci knows more about viruses than you do? And he just froze. It was so hard for him to give up. That expertise that he thinks he has about I don't trust that guide. I'm like, fine. That's all yours, but does he have PhD 50 years, runs the National Institute of whatever, and he finally could say it. He's like, yeah, he knows more about medical stuff than I do.
Dan: I’m like, good. I am sure I do, but I am very aware of what works for me and what works against me. I don't try to persuade in areas I know I'm going to fail.
Brendan: The 21 Coliseums of Persuasion, and I know that from a rhetorician perspective you need to be moving around those coliseums based on the awareness of the situation and the ecology, the ecosystem. Can you give our listeners some sense of, hey, if this topic seemed interesting and rhetoric—influence persuasion, there are different sorts of scenarios there, but they're related—where should I start? You mentioned reading a book. I get that, but what is an absolutely critical piece to start in this journey to get better at persuasion and rhetoric?
Dan: I think a really good place to start is a concept that I like to use when I introduce people to what rhetoric is. Think of human communication. Incredibly varied, incredibly complex, also incredibly simple at times. But there are two divisions and how people do it. There are expressive people who don’t know what they're going to say before they say it. This is probably the majority of the population. They don't even know what they believe until they say it. They'll be saying something and then later on will be thinking, why did I say that? I don't even sure if I believe that.
And those are expressers. They don't edit what's coming out of their mouth. It doesn't form first in their brain. Right now, I'm making words, but they are nowhere until they come out of my mouth. I don't know what I'm going to say. I'm just expressing. That's natural to human beings, and it's a powerful way of doing communication. It's very easy for us to do it.
On the other hand, our rhetoricians. Rhetoricians want to go in and work on every single syllable—the way it is said, when it is said, and what visuals go with it. A hyper rhetorical person doesn't want to talk until they've worked on the message. They want to maximize its effectiveness. If you think about that for yourself, are you an expressive or a rhetorical person?
Brendan: I think I would say I’m more rhetorical.
Dan: You speak slower. I mean, you seem to think a little bit before you talk.
Brendan: I try to.
Dan: You seem considered.
Brendan: It doesn't always come out perfectly.
Dan: No, of course not, but really rhetorical people talk very slowly because they're forming in their heads before they talk. Or they've pre-written it, which a lot of what I said tonight is pre-written. It sounds conversational. I've said this stuff many times. I've lectured this stuff, probably hundreds of times. A lot of what you're hearing are pre-worked scripts. I'm incredibly rhetorical. I like being expressive too when I do creative work. Expressiveness is what you want, but then you want a rhetorician to come along behind it, a mechanic, and improve it.
That's the cool thing about stand-up. Stand-up is written dozens if not hundreds of times. Rewritten, rewritten, rewritten based on the audiences’ reaction, and based on what you notice every time you go up and do it. That time it actually makes it to TV, you're probably seeing a script that's been written and performed 300 or more times with multiple different audiences. There should be no flaws in it at that point. If there are, you have not done the work.
Brendan: The other thing that jumps out at me there is that you have a PhD in Rhetoric, we said numerous times, but the work that you do, it may not require a PhD. People would need to have—my assumption is—a very, very good understanding of rhetoric to be great at their jobs in the space that you played in your stand-up comedy, comedy scripts, writing, TV, and stuff. Is that a right assumption people make? Or actually, no they don't, but they still get by?
Dan: Let's say it's a mix. Salespeople are really interesting in this way because they sell the same thing over and over again. A lot of times they'll naturally hit on a line or way of saying something, or a facial expression that works. Once it works, you're going to want to repeat it. It's going to be part of your routine because you know there's value in that script point, or that performance point, or the character that you're playing.
You find this in every job. It's just sales that's very distinct because they know a lot of times, they're money depends on how well they deliver that script. Really good salespeople will end up knowing all the boxes, all the hesitations, all the resistances of customers. As soon as they hear one, they've already got a script for answering it. It's usually a fairly sophisticated script because it matters.
That's the other thing about rhetoric, you get rhetorical when there are high stakes in your messaging. You know if you're in a situation where if you say the wrong thing, you're going to suffer, then you get very careful about your messages.
You can go back to relationships during conflicts. A lot of times, once conflicts start to come down and then you have to apologize and repair and things like that, get very careful about it. Or when they heighten and you know you're both losing it to the point where the emotions are overriding everything, a lot of times in relationship counseling, they'll tell you to stop talking because you're no longer in control of your script, and you might say stuff far more vehemently than you mean it or than you want to say it. You don't want to lose rhetorical control.
On the other hand, it doesn't mean you're an automaton, and then it's got to be a super perfect script. It's just maximize its effectiveness as best you can. It's great if you have a super rhetorician, if you have a team working with you. Like most professional stand-ups, have a team of writers. I mean this might sound genius, well the genius may be sitting back in Arkansas, sending in jokes, but the illusion of this master comedian is because it was team built.
There's a chapter in The 21 Coliseums about professionalizing your rhetoric. Bring in as many great resources as you can when you have important messages to build, because suddenly you'll get somebody in the third week at midnight who just says the perfect thing. You’re like, oh my God. In comedy, if you write a certain joke that hits a certain level, it can be a multi-million dollar joke because it becomes so popular that it changes everything. You know who Jim Gaffigan is? The comedian Jim Gaffigan?
Brendan: Oh, I don't know.
Dan: Anybody who wants to understand what I'm talking about, look up Jim Gaffigan on YouTube, Hot Pockets. He told a joke years ago around the product, the Hot Pocket, which is a pie that you put into a microwave and it changed his career from probably a $2500 a week comedian to $125,000 per show comedian.
Brendan: That’s pretty effective.
Dan: $2500 a show to over $100,000 a show. One joke, because it was so good.
Brendan: Can you just talk a little bit about that professionalization coliseum? Again, because in my storm, a team comes up, working together as a team. Just expand on that concept a bit if us, if you could.
Dan: We did it here today on this podcast. We showed up and there was 15 minutes before we started. We had Mark who's producing this. He's tech producing it. He's like, is this working? Are we streaming? Are we here? World ending? What's going on? Because not having a tech guy or a tech person for a professional media event is a really bad idea.
I do it all the time. I completely do all my stuff completely on my own. I had a hard drive crash a while back and I lost five episodes. I'm like, oh well. Nothing I can do about it now. He's part of the team that makes this work. And if five in people along the way—it's not just Mark—you've probably gotten advice or some type of an instruction. So you are a product of professional rhetorical support. You're not as smooth as you seem, Brendan.
Brendan: Absolutely not. You should have seen the freight ignitor of me before we sat down 15 minutes before the episode.
Dan: Yeah, but you've picked up skills. You know how to do these podcasts and how to seem like a nice guy, interested and not get in the way of the guests.You even told me before we started you gave me some direction. You're like, hey, if you monologue, it's fine. Don't worry about us having a conversation. You know I'm trying to get a bunch of free information for my listeners. I'm like, okay. That was a director's instruction.
Brendan: I love it. And yeah, there are a few people on the live stream, and I'll call out Dave, Matt, and Cass. Cass is on the line. She’s a previous guest in The Culture of Things and gave me some fantastic feedback around the interviewing and how they felt around the interview. Cass and Matt, thanks very much for that.
To me, I probably don't look at it as unnatural. It just happens. To me, I want to make sure I'm getting the best outcome for not only myself but for the guests. So to me, it's just a natural preparation thing.
Dan: Yeah, but drop that word ‘natural.’ That's not natural. That is a professional attitude where you're like, I have a goal. I need to organize this message so it achieves that goal. That is the very heart of rhetoric.
Brendan: Are you saying I'm a decent rhetorician already?
Dan: I’m saying you're amazing. I’m bowing before your prowess. Amazing.
Brendan: You just try to get me to do something, so you’re building me up.
Dan: No. Again, I don't do manipulation.
Brendan: What happens when two ethical rhetoricians get in the boxing ring together, around a hot topic that one’s here and one’s there?
Dan: An argument is supposed to be defined as two people trying to find the right answer. That is the nature of argumentation. It's called dialectics and philosophy, is you have many points of view or at least opposing points of view. They're not trying to attack each other and it doesn't have to be confrontational or conflictual. It's hey, here's what I think, what do you think about that? They may find flaws in or they may add to it, but that's supposed to be the definition of argumentation.
There are all these variations of argumentation in which the dominant ones are conflict-oriented. Like you see a debate where they basically get up and they're having a verbal fight. That's not really the idea of philosophical argumentation.
Then you get into academics with philosophical argumentation, and they get very attack-oriented. But they know their stuff really well, so we're not really offended by somebody who knows their stuff very well. I try to do this when I set goals for people. It's hard to do instruction while you're arguing with people. I learned in my marriage that just because I understand what argument flaws are and I can explain them, does not mean that the person using them wants to hear that or learn that stuff. I give you a really good—
Brendan: Didn’t [...] to get a PhD to know that, I'm sorry.
Dan: Intuitive learning, right? But what I can do is I can lay it out and show you what's happening, like the idea and you hear a lot of people, this one of the major argument flaws people have is multiplicity versus singularity. You can't argue multiple strands of information. You can't jump topics and get anything done in logic. Logic locks you into one thing until it's logically built. If you want to jump around. if you want to lily pad in arguments, it's a bad system because you never can get everything done.
I've had relationships where they are multiplicitous arguers. They jump topics. We get halfway through something, off to, yeah, but what about... I'll be like, can we go back to the fact that you drop dishes every time you try to do dishes or whatever it is. Can we go back to the fact that all the cups look like… And he said, but that's me doing argument control, an argument instruction, argument refereeing, and that's just not available in the world. Communication gets very complex, it sprawls out of control, but the people in it aren't allowed to referee it, so how do you win that one?
Brendan: I got no idea. I've just got these images of two heavyweight boxers in the ring that know their stuff there. They're looking good, but they're not throwing any punches at each other. Just running around the ring looking good.
Dan: Yeah, I could see that.
Brendan: You mentioned the term flaws and you started to talk about that a little bit. What are some of these flaws, the more common flaws that you see around people influencing, persuading, or trying to?
Dan: You used one earlier. There's a list of logical fallacies. They're kind of fun to look at, and there are all sorts of memes with them that are kind of fun. If people were just trained in logical fallacies, we'd be much further down the road because they tend to deconstruct unethical rhetoric very quickly. Do you know what fallacy you used? Do you have any idea?
Brendan: No, please enlighten me. More feedback.
Dan: It's a master fallacy and people use it all the time, especially in politics. It's called false equivalency. I was talking about the right and you said, doesn't the left do the same thing? It's a false equivalency. What I did was I stepped back and I was like, well, they both do things but they don't do the same things.
I showed you that's a false equivalency, like the right tends to use unethical techniques, the left doesn't. They can use annoying techniques that may not be fully worked out, like the whole thing with cancel culture right now and stuff like that, but they're not the same technique. It's a false equivalency to say they are. People do it to you all the time, and you hear it in politics. All politicians are unethical and they all lie. It's not true. That's a false equivalency.
Brendan: In the business world that you've been in for the particular last seven years or so with your media agency, what flaws do you see there? Or even an example of false equivalency that you've seen regularly?
Dan: It's rife with false equivalency. To look at other competitors and see what they're doing, and then to say we should try some of that, like what they're doing. It's kind of a false equivalency because you've got to look at the products. Are the products the same? Is the company the same? If you have super similarity, then okay maybe you can adapt some of their successful techniques.
But I typically found it to be fairly lazy thinking, like instead of thinking your way through what's good for your product, you go to a quick thought which is there's a similar product, here's what they're doing. Let's try that. You're trying to capitalize on their thinking. It's a false equivalency. You're never the same as your competition. There are almost always differentiators in the products and the way that you do them, all that stuff.
You have to be real careful of quick thinking and false equivalencies. Literally, just a form of quick thinking, it's easy thinking. I see a lot of that with businesses. What do I see in businesses is process issues. We're talking earlier about me dealing with C-suite smart people and trying to get them out of the creative process.
Brendan: Is that the false equivalent of just saying all C-suite people are smart people?
Dan: I never claimed that they were all smart people. They're typically very smart. I get it that you're smart, yadda, yadda, yadda. They at least perceive themselves as smart. I need to get them out of the creative process, and I need to differentiate what they are and what the creatives are. If I do that well and distinctly, they will naturally come to the conclusion, I don't belong over here in the creative because the creative process is very different from the business process.
Creative process is often very chaotic. You can't tell who's valuable or how they're valuable. Hollywood's figured a lot of this out because they've worked with creators forever. Hollywood will allow a head writer, sometimes an executive producer also, to pick a staff of creatives.
I was on the staff once where in the room, a lot of people were very funny. They're verbally funny, but then you send the quiet ones off to their office and they actually write off the script. If you were just looking at it quantitatively of who seems the most entertaining and valuable in the room, you would always pick the verbal ones. But it turns out, the other people are actually writing the show, they just aren't verbal.
You have to understand that kind of workforce in order to put together a good team that knows how to work. Everybody works within their strengths to get a strong product because you also can't take the verbal people out. Even though they're not getting anything on the show, they put all the energy in the room that the quiet people kind of feed off of. That's where they get all their ideas. They're taking notes, then they go back to their office, hone it, turn it into a mechanical joke that will work, so there's a synergy between those two verbal and nonverbal writers. You can't see it unless you're a head writer and you've been in those rooms.
Brendan: What coliseum does that fall into?
Dan: That's the messaging, probably. They might be professional. Again, sort of situational, like you find persuasion is done differently in every situation. You go into religion and they are going to do persuasion in a certain way. You go into a high-dollar, big-name corporation, you go into a comedy writers room, and as you move through these, you will find you become incompetent almost instantly when you walk into other environments.
The smartest person is not the most useful person in a creative environment, but a creative person is not the most useful person in a smart environment. Sometimes people can do multiple things, but almost everybody runs into incompetence as they move through situations. Part of it is knowing. I think for a lot of people when they work, it's knowing where your natural inclinations fit that occupation, where you can succeed because it's already jived up with how you like to talk.
Other people will feel oppressed forever by the institution that they're in because it doesn't fit the way they like to talk. I used to do this in education. I would always sit in the back of the room because I wanted to talk while somebody else was lecturing. I wanted to comment on it without disrupting the room because I didn't want to disrupt it, but I wanted to also say my stuff. In comedy clubs, that's called heckling, you're not allowed to talk.
Brendan: What do you do with those people when you're on the other side of it?
Dan: It's not fair. It's not a fair fight.
Brendan: I think we've seen that through some of your episodes.
Dan: Yeah, somebody will say something or disrupt the show, and I'll be like, if they get a laugh my God it was good. Do you have anything else? Anything else prepared? No? Good, because it turns out I do and I've got a microphone. Let's go. Here we go.
Dan: Stand-up, sort of crowd work, and dealing with hecklers is a great example of when you become a hyper rhetorician. I've done comedy in biker bars in Florida. I've done comedy at the top corporations. I did comedy at the Naval War College while I was also doing a seminar for them. I've done so much comedy, my brain is so fast at it now you're never going to beat me in that situation, ever. I just have too much. That doesn't apply everywhere else but in that situation, you're going to have a hard time.
Brendan: Be prepared. I'm trying to link this back to my own storm, that what I think I'm hearing is there's huge value in people spending time, I guess, to use that word, in other people's storms to really start to understand the way that people think around things, because if you can do that, then maybe you do have a little bit more of a leg in on potentially persuading them. Is that fair to say?
Dan: It is but it just depends on your theory as a persuader. You can maximize your storm and impose it on everybody, perfectly valid. That's Trump. Trump never changed the way he talks no matter who he's talking to. You can like it or not like it, but you're going to get it.
Same way with Biden. Biden has a certain way of talking. Comes across as a nice person, likes to be rational, reasonable. That's what you're going to get. He never breaks down. I remember the debate, the last debate when Trump was being super Trump and literally attacking, wouldn't shut up, and Biden's just, the worst thing he said was, can you stop this clown from talking? That was the farthest Trump could push him, was clown.
That's pretty good discipline. He's been a politician for 40–50 years, so it was really good discipline. I would have probably done different stuff to counter Trump, but I really admired Biden for staying with his messaging, stay in your storm.
You can do that, you can maximize your storm, and you'll find a lot of times if you just stay on yours, others, they will come and adjust to you. That's what I do a lot of times with rhetoric. I'm not going to stop calling it rhetoric, you might want to call it branding and all other stuff, but I'm not going to switch over to that terminology because it's not my terminology. I've come to understand it, understand businesses, and sort of what they're doing with that stuff, but I don't like the limitations that it imposes.
Or you can learn multiple storms, and sort of breeze your way through the ones that you like and where you've got some strengths. You see politicians who do this too. I think over here, Obama was really good at that. He could adjust to multiple audiences and kind of talk their talk pretty well. He's pretty chameleon-like, I think in some ways with that.
That's also a viable theory where you're like, I really want to learn this culture and the way these people do this so I can get good with them. I tend to do somewhere in the middle, I think.
Brendan: You mentioned Obama and maybe he's a great persuader. Who are some of these, apart from you, buddy? Who are these household-name great persuaders out there?
Dan: I'm in the top three, at least.
Brendan: Well mention the other two if you could.
Dan: Sure. It was kind of funny. I've been working on a stand-up show that orients people to rhetoric because I like to fuse stand-up into interesting information. I was thinking about this question, who are the two most influential persuaders? The people who have been said no to the least in life and I came up with, I don't know if these are the most, but they're up there. Number one was André the Giant. André the Giant was seven foot two, 525 pounds.
Brenda: A wrestler? [...]?
Dan: Yeah. How many times do you think he heard no in his life? How do you say no to a 525-pound wrestling dude? And he was sweet. He was a nice guy and everything else, but just the sheer magnitude of this person, you're going to want to not say no to him.
Brendan: I feel like I need to hit the gym to kickstart my rhetoric journey.
Dan: Imposing power is one. On the other side, I think well, what's the opposite of that? Maybe Marilyn Monroe. Whereas André is imposing power, she is the ultimate allure. Just the feminine use of persuasion, the feminine approach to persuasion, of allure, offer, charm, delight, and all these types of things that she used would be, and you see males do this to charm and delight are one of the superpowers in persuasion.
It goes on both sides and they're very powerful women that use imposing power, but they'll never be 525 pounds of André the Giant. No guy’s ever going to be Marilyn Monroe. Her estate still makes $25 million a year. She's been dead for 50 years. That was the kind of superpower super persuasion she had.
Brendan: Persuasion sounds like a great way to form passive income.
Dan: You find anybody can imprint themselves onto a culture into the consciousness of culture through character. One of the chapters of the book is character. How do you construct a character that's going to work for your persuasion? Like I said, you've done that. You're moderately conservatively dressed, you're friendly, you're not combative, you're trying to do good things for your audience. You care about the information. You've established a morality level to yourself as a host and you pull it off very well, it seems very believable and authentic. People are making moral judgments about you, but it's just a character. I'm sure you've been a worse person than this.
Brendan: Yeah, when I was 18, not great, but we live and learn.
Dan: We try to present the character that's going to be the most powerful for us, is going to do the best work for us. Again, with ethical rhetoricians, you're trying to make sure that's an authentic part of who you are and that if somebody says, is this all who you are? Then you would talk about, no, I'm also this. We shape our identities for other people all the time because we know it's going to improve the reception of our messages.
I sometimes run into this, like when I do stand-up professor, I don't talk about being a professor a lot of times because again, I've worked in biker bars and things like that and that's not going to go well. I want to see more like them and I'm from—
Brendan: You don't necessarily fit that stereotype of a professor, do you? You got glasses.
Dan: I got glasses, but now I don't.
Brenda: Have you got lenses in those glasses?
Dan: They're just reading glasses, close up. I've had people guess what I do for a living. Nobody's ever said, professor. I've gotten bouncer, lawn work.
Brendan: Never judge a book by its cover as they say.
Dan: Actually judging books by their cover works pretty well. Did you ever notice that?
Brendan: Not in the case we just talked about.
Dan: I know but you get the advice that doesn't seem like it's true. I can pretty much tell like, oh look, here's the cover and there are some blurbs. I bet you I know what's in that book.
Brendan: If it's a Mills and Boon book, if you will?
Brendan: Let's start to wrap this up. I always like to ask my guests about their leadership impact and in their own journey. You've got unbelievable experience and various paths to your journey. What do you think had the greatest impact on yourself in your journey around leadership? Because you're a leader in your field.
Dan: There was a point when I remember I was a reader my whole life. I grew up in Kentucky in a very working-class neighborhood and it wasn't an education-centric neighborhood. It was a work-centric neighborhood and it's just on the edge of farmland. The things I valued weren't particularly valued in that culture, but I learned very early that reading escaped all that. It transcended all your location and your limitations, and the people who wrote books were really smart, interesting to listen to when you read their stuff.
I was a reader, I was a consumer forever and ever and ever. I will consume information and learn and learn and learn. Then I remember at some point, I watched the Disney film, Fantasia, or maybe it was listening to the Sting song Wrapped Around Your Finger, where there's this tradition and old storytelling of the apprentice becoming the master. Suddenly, you're just casting spells and you probably don't feel like you're ready to cast spells, but everybody else seems to be okay with it.
I remember moving from the consumer over to producer, and being like, you know what? I think I've consumed enough. I've read forever voraciously. I really do feel like I've kind of filled up my brain in some ways. And now just every day, I just produce. I write, I try to think about this stuff, do podcasts, write books, because I'm trying to take all the stuff that I've learned and filter it out in a way that can be useful to other people from my brain, not to reconstruct what somebody else has said. But when I think about it, how do I see it?
I think that was the main thing of starting to think of yourself as a producer of things, not a consumer of things so much. That was huge and I think that's a moment when you can start doing that you start taking the responsibilities of being a good producer, of putting out good stuff into the world that people can actively use.
One of the cool things, really cool things about rhetoric is it's meant to be used. It's not philosophy, it's linguistic philosophy, which means it's language in use. The only reason to study it is to see how it's affecting people. It doesn't matter if I learn this great phrase or this great way of persuading. It doesn't matter until I go test it on people. Then if it's working, then you can go hey, this is a technique that we should all learn and try to use together.
On the other hand, it counteracts bad effects, which is what started me down this path again about a year ago with the podcast, the book, and everything. There are some actually dangerous rhetorica swirling around democracies right now. I better set up some armaments, see if I can teach some of the rhetorical military to shoot some of the stuff down.
Brendan: I really like that. I like that advice, that sort of consumer to producer. I guess the world that you live in and the rhetoric side of things, you'd always be consuming. This conversation, you consume certain things. I know you spend [...] lunch club, which is how ultimately yourself and Mark met, and then we met. Maybe you're just consuming in a different pattern, less of the reading. You are noticing all sorts of stuff. That's my take on it.
Dan: Yeah, but I instantly turn it into production. I take notes on all my lunch club meetings because I'll find something interesting that I'm thinking while they're talking, or I'll notice something about their communication. That's probably because I'm writing a book on the art of conversation in business because I hear a lot of people teaching communication skills and business, and they have almost no qualifications to teach communication skills.
I'm like, why don't you learn again? Go to the formal depth stuff that's actually been studied like in conversational analysis. You'll find that if you learn those mechanics from people who deep study it, it'll just elevate everything you do.
You did a thing at the beginning here where you set a conversational rule for us on turns. You consciously told me, it's okay to take a long turn and to not give the turns back to me. That's an unnatural form of conversation, it's usually a dysfunctional form of conversation. If Mike does that to you in a natural conversation, it annoys you, and that happens all the time at lunch club. I have a whole way of auditing people. I'm like, here's all the dysfunctions.
I had three lunch clubs today—I was doing them for 10 minutes just for fun—and they're all awful. I wanted to tell the person—I don't because that's not what they're signed up for—hey, you only talk about yourself. You've not asked me a single question or a follow-up probe question to anything I've said. That is dysfunctional.
I want to teach that stuff to the world because it would make a big difference in their lives. That's how many people walk around with dysfunctional communication structures and carry them into their relationships, their families, their work. And they never fix them. They're literally not deep psychological things you have to go and talk to a therapist for four years about. There are mechanical ways that you learn to do communication. Like turns should be short, that should be traded back and forth, and you should follow-up once or twice with probe questions. That is the most functional form of communication in a conversation. I find business people all the time can't do it.
Brendan: Yeah, I hear you and I experienced that many, many times myself. I've got this vision again and maybe this is back to your stand-up comedy side. I'm surprised you don't have a virtual screen where you just hit a button and that whole dysfunctional thing comes up above your head. I think you need to try that buddy. A visual trigger.
Brendan: Absolutely, that fits into the messaging coliseum. I think it's definitely one of those things to try.
Dan: Good rhetoric work there, buddy. Little neon flashing sign to affect how people communicate, that's good work.
Brendan: Can I say I look forward to seeing it but not to be the person that you do it to hopefully?
Dan: Again, this goes back to ethical approaches. None of this is to punish people. It's not to make you feel bad about your skills, or your rhetoric, or anything else. It's to say you haven't been trained and most of this, ergo you're probably not going to know it. But it's all trainable, it's all learnable, it's not super esoteric, it just takes time to see it, start to practice it, incorporate it into your lives, and then you can get better at it.
Dysfunction to me is just habitual. It's not something you're born with. I had another person today who said I'm an introvert and I don't really like to talk that much to people. I'm like, do you know what that really means? That means I don't care whether you enjoy my conversation.
You can't hide behind introvert and then give people a bad conversational experience. Sorry, that's a psychological dodge. You may be an introvert, maybe a true psychological thing. It doesn't matter to a communication person. You are not taking turns when I'm giving them to you. Literally sitting there going and I just let it sit until they talked. I'm like, you're giving me a bad conversational experience here. Ten minutes I cut it off and I'm like, hey, it's been fun talking to you. Got to go.
Brendan: Again, I could sit here and talk to you for hours, I think. I appreciate the respect you have shown me and just the conversation we've had today. Just in two conversations, this one and the last one we had for an hour or so, I've already learned an unbelievable amount and then a whole heap of packaged information that I'm gathering from your book.
I've written all sorts of notes from that and highlighted certain things. I'm one of those people, I don't like highlighting in physical books so I'm a bit anal like that, but highlighting on ebooks is absolutely fantastic. I'm really comfortable with that. I've got all sorts of highlights through yours.
Mate, thank you so much for spending time with us today. The link between what you do and I feel a bit more, not a lot more, but I want to get on that journey. I feel a bit more educated around rhetoric and how we can use that really in an ethical way, absolutely, to help and to grow in our journeys, which is ultimately what it was about. I appreciate you and thank you for being an absolutely fantastic guest and the first PhD of rhetorician on The Culture of Things podcast, buddy, with two Emmy nominations.
Dan: My list of accomplishments has grown by one. It's been super fun, man. You are fun to talk to, and you're very authentic and very giving. It's been a great conversation. Appreciate it.
Brendan: Thank you, Mate. Great to chat.
These takeaways are a chance to bring you back from Dan’s verbal storm, to mine. In today’s episode, we met Dr. Dan French. As I said in the intro, he is literally the only person in the world with two Emmy nominations for late night comedy writing, and a PhD in Rhetoric. What a fascinating combination of skills to develop. I was lucky enough to spend some time with Dan a few weeks ago, and ever since, I’ve been excited to host him on the podcast and to learn more about rhetoric and the art of ethical persuasion.
I’ve read his most recent book, The 21 Coliseums of Persuasion, and I’ve also signed up for his 25-week Master Persuasion Course. If this episode has wet your appetite for rhetoric and persuasion, I highly recommend buying his book and doing the course. And if you think it might be too costly, think again. His book is $12 on Kindle, and his 25 week course is $25 USD. Why so cheap? Because he wants everyone to take the course.
These were my 3 key takeaways from my conversation with Dan: My first key takeaway: Leaders are great rhetoricians. The CEO should be the head rhetorician. They know how to choose their words for powerful messaging. They understand how to influence, and they know how to move around the 21 coliseums, ethically. Great leaders are great rhetoricians.
My second key takeaway: Leaders use ethical persuasion techniques. Simply put, they are transparent in their dealings. They are open, honest, and use this to have genuine conversations. Unethical persuasion techniques involve hiding your motives. Simply put, being dodgy. Don’t be dodgy. Be a leader who is transparent in your dealings.
My third key takeaway: Leaders act on their limits. Not only do they know their strengths and weaknesses, they use this understanding as a basis for action. When a leader stops acting like an expert on everything, it allows for real conversations to happen. As a leader, act on your limits and the results will be better for everyone.
So in summary, my three key takeaways were: Leaders are great rhetoricians. Leaders use ethical persuasion techniques. And leaders act on their limits.
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