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Using words persuasively but untruthfully

This is a section of a longer paper. There is a roadmap for the entire paper, and you can download the PDF.


Another feature of SBCMB is a tendency to be very effective at using words to persuade people in specific situations, but without a proper regard for long-term consistency and truth. This behaviour normally only becomes obvious over the long term. In any given instance, what they say may sound very persuasive, logical, and even gracious. However, if you have a reason to compare what they have said previously with what they say subsequently, you may notice inconsistencies; and the more you look, the more inconsistencies and out-and-out contradictions arise. Of course, inconsistency is not limited to people exhibiting SBCMB. None of us is entirely consistent, and all of us can be selfish and try to justify ourselves. But for those exhibiting SBCMB, this inconsistency seems to be an entrenched pattern rather than an occasional feature.

This is especially true when the person is speaking about themselves or the way they have been treated.

An Illustration: Using words persuasively but untruthfully

An individual known to me (Lionel) published a scathing critique of a group of scholars. In the opening words of his critique, he stated that he was well-qualified to write such a critique, because he had expertise in that particular scholarly field. He stressed in his critique that he held a formal high-level qualification in that scholarly field, and had been a long-term student in the field for decades. Such a prominent statement at the beginning of his critique was obviously designed to demonstrate that what he was writing was legitimate and worthy of recognition.

However, when I read the critique, I noticed that he had made significant errors in certain statements pertaining to that particular scholarly field (in which I also happen to hold a formal high-level qualification). I contacted him to query one of these errors, as his critique of the other scholars was so scathing and dismissive.

In defending himself, he stated that he did not claim to be a scholar with direct expertise or mastery in that particular scholarly field (which of course was a direct contradiction to what he had said at the start of his critique). He said this to me in order to demonstrate that I was being overly harsh towards him, i.e. that I was holding him to an overly high standard and being unfair to him. Later, after a few exchanges in which other issues came to light, he claimed that he was simply a practitioner who often made mistakes (by implication, not a scholar at all).

Notice the way in which each statement from this person seemed quite specifically intended, within its own context, to portray him in a positive light. In the first context, his claims to expertise served to portray him as worthy of being heard broadly (and worthy of issuing a scathing critique against others). In the second context, his contradictory denial of such expertise enabled him to portray himself as a victim, worthy of sympathy for being unjustly criticised (and deflecting any claims that the people he had criticised were victims of his behaviour). That is, he had used words very persuasively in different contexts, but comparing the words between contexts shows they were directly contradictory of each other.

Read the next section: Creating a relational climate that revolves around themselves


Copyright © 2021 Lionel and Bronwyn Windsor

Note well: Because of time and energy constraints, we’re not personally able to respond to any queries or comments about this paper. So please realise in advance that if you send us a message about this paper, you are unlikely to receive any response from us.

To read the whole paper: Slow-burn crazy-making behaviours

Slow-burn crazy-making behavioursOnline: a roadmap for the entire paper Download the entire PDF

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