It was a passing that drew little notice locally. The obituary was short and just contained the minimal information on the life of Lawrence Dawkins. Then something extraordinary happened. Over a period of months, the paper was flooded with letters to the editor telling the stories of how Lawrence Dawkins had persuaded them to change their outlook on life. And those writing the letters were a who’s who of the local society. The paper decided to publish each letter because of the lessons they may provide to others.

The letters also offered guidance for how new organizations and society in general could rethink the polarized views that were destructive. After a month of publishing the letters, the paper’s editor decided to reprint quotes from the letters in an editorial called Persuasion. The editorial went as follows:

Persuasion is at the heart of our democracy. We can no longer survive if we can’t come to some common agreement on the issues we face as a nation. Consider the following quotes from tribute letters in memory of Lawrence Dawkins.

                “He never told me what to think, what he did was show me how to do an honest evaluation of how I think.”

                “He never used facts to try to change how I think. What he did was to help me explore my values and to align those values with my thinking.”

                “He taught me how to eliminate the distractions of what others were saying and to think for myself.”

                “He helped me realize that it was ok to think differently than others I was close to.”

                “I was filled with hate and self-pity. I blamed everyone else for my life and that shaped my beliefs. He taught me how to focus on what was positive and that brought a new mindset.”

                “I now think how might that be true? when anyone says something I don’t agree with.”

                “I’ve become an advocate for exploration and evaluation rather than reacting.”


The above are just a few of the many insights we gained from the letters in tribute to Lawrence Dawkins. I just wish he were better known to us when he was alive. But the one thing that comes through in every one of these letters is that persuasion is a one-to-one not a one-to-many act. We need more Lawrence Dawkins and less self-servicing influencers.

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“Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.” – Aristotle

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.