Presidential Debates, Apologetics, Information and Influence
by J. Warner Wallace
Most people who regularly engage others in debate or conversation recognize that there’s a difference between information and influence. I certainly don’t want to engage people on a topic without first possessing the proper information; all of us want to speak from a position of informational certainty. But having information alone, even true information, does not guarantee that we will influence those with whom we talk. The recent presidential debates illustrate this reality and provide Christian Case Makers with important lessons.
At the conclusion of each debate, many of us came to very different conclusions about how each candidate performed. We disagreed about what each candidate meant, and the degree to which each candidate was able to influential the nation. Now it is true that some of our opinions were rooted in prior political commitments, but when I encounter someone who wants to talk about the presidential debates, the first thing I ask is, “How did you experience the debate? Did you read it, listen to it, or watch it?” I recognize that people are influenced (whether politically or otherwise) based on how they receive information. If we simply read the transcript of the debate, we’ll miss the important tone and inflection indicators that inform us about the true intention of each speaker. If we simply listen to the debate, we’ll miss all the non-verbal physical indicators that help us understand what was intended by each candidate.
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A speaker can possess the correct information; yet still lose the battle of influence. The content of our words is impacted by all the tones, inflections and non-verbal cues that accompany them. In fact, experts believe that “nonverbal communication makes up about two-thirds of all communication.” Informational content alone is not enough; how we deliver information is often more important than what we delivered. This is true for those who engage in political debates and it’s also true for those of use who engage in conversations about our faith…
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