The current principle is a simple one of the art of persuasion, and I would not think myself remiss to say that it is the most fundamental one. The idea is simple, and has been said in a famous quote by Adam Smith in his Wealth of Nations that I have used previously in my meandering scribbles. It goes simply:
While I was previously condemning it as a societal institution, and my reservations regarding its instrumental values not withstanding, I do heartily believe that as principle of interpersonal conduct, and when interpreted in that light, or used to predict how larger groups will behave, that it is a correct quote. I do not dispute that it is how things are, but I am not yet willing to accept that it is how things should be.
The interpersonal principle that I extract and thought was axiomatic of common sense is simply identified as thinking from the other person’s perspective. If you want them to do something for you, or you expect them to do something for you, you would be a mighty fool if you did not think what incentives and what reasons they might have for doing what you want them to do. You can recite lists, pages and pages if you want, of reasons why it will make your own life easier and how it will create additional efficiency in the organisational structure or that planning and resource allocation will be simplified. But if you are addressing to another arguments like this, then you must surely realise that you have utterly failed. Your reasons are to me meaningless, unless your wellbeing has special meaning to me, and that therefore the smoothing of your path will suffice as reason for me to accept an inconvenience. Chances are that to most of the people you interact with, you fail to make such an impact. I despair that men who ought to be wise do not heed such simple lessons when taught, or will soon insist on forgetting them without engraving them on to their souls. How is it that they are willing to be so remiss?
The core conception here, and why to me it is so important, is that of focus on the other person’s reasons and thoughts. You have to be willing to walk through a request from their perspectives. What labour and time are you asking of them. What better things might they have to do with this time? A thousand times these questions must be asked, and every person should be their subject. This is the only way to arrive at persuasive argument. Reason is a cogent and logical tool, but it is only that, for it is not by itself a proper means of persuasion of another being. We are not robots, and to pretend and argue like we are would be foolish. To persuade is to appeal through and beyond rationality. A human being intuitively understands much that he cannot comprehend rationally, and does not even know that he knows. We are much more then our rational brains, and so our art of persuasion requires equally as broad a reach. We must dissolve cold reason by treating it with a humanising touch, an application aimed at the true nature of people and what they are likely to respond to.
But it subtly demands greater things of us. It requires a sacrifice of the ego, an abandonment of ourselves as the pivots of our egocentric universes. It requires understanding that others have interests and desires different from our own which they are right and entitled to own. That they hold things critical which we consider peripheral.
This requires a functioning openness of mind, a willingness to be explained things but then to challenge the explainer to justify things. It cannot function without such questioning, such intellectual rigour. But it is seldom that the world is truly conducive to such inquiries, and there time and place must be definition therefore be chosen with care and consideration.