GEORGE LAKOFF ADVICE FOR PLAINTIFF TRIAL LAWYERS

I’ve written about the writings of George Lakoff many times including this post: http://plaintifftriallawyertips.com/george-lakoffs-the-political-mind Lakoff is a retired UC Berkeley professor and author of many publications on linguistics and communication. He has been involved in eleven books and lectured widely.

Lakoff maintains Trump is a super salesman and predicted he would win the election. He was interviewed about this recently and a friend circulated it. You can find it in:  http://www.berkeleyside.com/2017/05/02/berkeley-author-george-lakoff-says-dont-underestimate-trump/ In the interview he reminds us  about communication principles each of us should know, understand and practice. His basic message is simple.  Politicians rely upon polls and PR advice when they should be listening to cognitive linguistic and neuroscience experts.  That’s because people don’t vote for what is in their best interests. They vote for their value systems. Politicians need to talk about values instead of making arguments about specific issues. As I observed during the campaign, Trump offered simple solutions: “build a wall” and Clinton offered logical, but involved, arguments. Short, simple and consistent themes are essential in persuasion.

He says each time an idea is promoted the unconscious mind frames it as a concept through which they view the  world. If it doesn’t fit their world view they ignore it, reject it or interpret it their way.  So long as politicians believe people process information logically and at a conscious level they are missing the boat because “98 percent of thought is unconscious.”

It’s important to know conservatives  have what  he calls the “strict father family” picture of authority. That is, authority is justified by morality and in a well ordered world, there should be a moral hierarchy of “God above man, man above nature, the rich above the poor” man above woman, whites above non whites and Christians above non Christians. This is seen as the “natural order.” This is their value system.

How we frame issues is critical. Instead of the Republican’s “regulations & restrictions” progressives should characterize controls and rules as “protections.”  By doing that, we show that it makes a difference when we talk about “getting rid of 2/3rd’s of our protections.” In the same way “taxes” have a different impact than “investments.” Talking about making “investments” in our infrastructure” is different than talking about a road “tax.” Framing to fit the conservative viewpoint is important.

As to candidates who understand these concepts, he notes  that Elizabeth Warren has come the closest to articulating these ideas. But, he says “Elizabeth has a problem. She is shrill and there is a prejudice against shrill women.” How we communicate is also important.

From Lakoff we need to learn the value of metaphors. See his book “Metaphors  we Live By” for good information on this important idea. We also need to have the courage to rid ourselves of the false notion we are primarily rational creatures in our thought process. Communications that have a lasting impression on our subconscious mind operate below our conscious control. So long as we continue to try to persuade jurors using an intellectual and logical approach we are missing the target. We need to rid ourselves of the idea emotion plays no role in decision make because it is all logical. All decision making in all human beings, including genius thinkers, is a combination of rational and emotional response. All decision making involves a large portion of unconscious processing beyond our conscious awareness or control. We create a framework of an outlook about the world involving our value systems and we then filter information through that framework. Persuasion involves presenting something in a way that is consistent with the existing framework and not through useless attempts to change the unconscious framework. That’s why appealing to the rational mind through logical argument is a total waste of time. The presidential election is evidence of that fact.

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