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Published March 26, 2012 in Persuasion by Sharon Harris
The Golden Rule, according to philosopher and scholar Simon Blackburn, can be "found in some form in almost every ethical tradition."
We often hear it in the positive form: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”
It is also heard in a negative form (sometimes called the Silver Rule): “Do not treat others in ways you would not like to be treated yourself.”
Libertarianism, with its prohibition against the initiation of force, could be described as a variant of, or adjunct to, this universal Golden Rule. No one wants to be forced into doing something, or forcibly restrained from doing peaceful things they desire to do with their life or property. So by not initiating force against others, we are doing unto others what we would have done unto us.
On a more humble level, the Golden Rule applies to communication. We should, whenever possible, speak with others in the ways we would like to be spoken to. We should try not to speak with others in ways we would not like to be spoken to.
This isn't just politeness. It’s a central component of effective communication.
Think about how YOU would like to be treated in a conversation. How would you like the other person to behave when they are trying to persuade you to share their point of view?
Would you like them to:
* Shout at you?
* Call you stupid or evil?
* Refuse to listen to your viewpoint?
* Interrupt you?
* Ignore your ideas?
* Talk for 30 minutes without taking a breath?
Of course not.
So let's apply the Golden Rule to our libertarian communication:
* Be respectful of the other person and civil in the way you talk.
* Listen to the other person's viewpoints and take their concerns into account.
* Find areas of agreement and compliment the person on their insights.
* Refrain from arguing or getting angry.
* Don't lecture and don't interrupt.
I've written in more detail about each of these techniques in previous columns. Note that they're all things that WE would like OTHERS to do for us.
They are Golden Rules of effective libertarian communication. (Or any other kind of communication.)
Of course, the concept of following the Golden Rule in communication (and elsewhere) is a simple one. But please note: it's not EASY. It doesn't come naturally. It takes commitment and practice.
But the payoff is worth it. You will enormously increase your success in persuading others to embrace libertarian ideas.
And just as important, you won't turn off those who are not yet ready to accept libertarian ideas. They will thus be ready to listen to the next person who approaches them -- who may complete the process of helping them become libertarians.
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