Many people, when delivering a speech or media interview, like to present data that unequivocally support their point of view.
If you're a conservative politician, for example, you might cite a statistic from the conservative Heritage Foundation to bolster your proposal's
But it's even more powerful to quote a source the audience wouldn't expect you to embrace.
For example, imagine you're a liberal politician who supports a health care individual mandate. You might say:
"I'd like to read you a quote. It says, 'If a young man wrecks his Porsche and has not had the foresight to obtain insurance, we may commiserate, but
society feels no obligation to repair his car. But health care is different. If a man is struck down by a heart attack in the street, Americans will care
for him whether or not he has insurance.' I agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment. (pause) It may surprise you to know that that quote comes from the
conservative Heritage Foundation. We thank them for their support." (laughter)
You don't have to be a politician to use this device. Many organizations representing a cause or a business can use their opponents' quotes for their own
benefit. You can use opponents' quotes even if they don't explicitly contradict something they said earlier.
For example, let's say you represent a gun control organization. If a gun rights group says, "We all agree that gun safety is critically important," you
can use that line. If an pro-environment nonprofit says, "Protecting the environment doesn't have to eat into corporate profits," a local industry group
can use it.
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Sure, it can be persuasive to cite sources that support your point of view. But oftentimes, it can be even more persuasive to surprise your audience by
selecting sources that don't.
Brad Phillips is author of the new book The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview. He blogs at
Mr. Media Training blog. where a version of this story first appeared.