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Art of Persuasion: Polarizing Your Opponent

Updated: Apr 30

By Clayton T. Robertson (Criminal Defense / Civil Litigation Attorney)


I attended today a presentation by Rick Friedman, who wrote a book titled "Polarizing the Case." What does this technique mean for you at a personal level?


When you are confronted by a person who attempts to slime you with insinuation and innuendo, you must not let those attacks go unaddressed. If left unopposed, those unstated allegations will stick in the minds of others who hear them, and will sway, even if subconsciously, their attitudes towards you.


For example, if a doctor is attempting to claim you are faking an illness or injury, call them on it. When confronted, most people will shy away from openly acknowledging their insinuations. In doing so, they lose credibility. And don't let them use hedge words. In this example, if the doctor says you are "malingering" or "seeking attention," confront them directly: "Are you claiming I'm faking it?" People like straight-shooters, not overly clever wordsmiths. This includes jurors. (Lawyers tend to fall in the "a little bit too clever for their own good" category.)


On the other hand, if your opponent acknowledges it, you typically are able to corner them into accepting those allegations in their most unvarnished form. This means your opponent inevitably overstates their case through the need to defend themselves. By overreaching, they also lose credibility. They also appear petty and small-minded.


Throughout this process, you turn the tables on your adversary and make it about them, not about you. You go on the offensive. You make them defend their allegations. In legal terms, what you've done is shift the burden of proof. You put the focus on them. For most people on the receiving end of this technique, this is not a comfortable experience. This technique also empowers you because, in the minds of others, if these allegations were true, you would not be so willing to confront your adversary. As a result, you gain credibility. You also gain the satisfaction of defending yourself.


In short, never let someone "frame" you through insinuation and innuendo.






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