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War for Men's Minds

The Ransberger Pivot
by Barry Kayton

Ever heard of the Ransberger Pivot? Invented in 1982 by Ray Ransberger and Marshall Fritz, the Ransberger Pivot is a communication principle you can use to find common ground with an intellectual opponent, and swing an audience to your point of view. 

Imagine you're talking amongst a small group of people, none of whom understand or appreciate the value of free enterprise. The conversation turns to education and you suggest that most of the education problems would disappear if government privatizes all public schools and completely deregulates education. 

A woman responds, "Be serious! You don't really believe that, do you?" 

At this point your blood pressure starts to rise, of course, and this is where the Ransberger Pivot is useful. There are three steps to the Ransberger Pivot. 

Step one: stay calm and listen to what the questioner is asking! 

In this case, the woman is probably more bewildered than belligerent. 

Step two: ask yourself, "What is this person really concerned about? What does she really want?" Make an intelligent and thought-provoking response to the question. 

In this case, the woman is incredulous that you would suggest doing away with public education, because throughout her life she has been led to believe that without government most children would go uneducated.  

So what does she want? She wants children to be educated. And what she really wants is some measure of certainty that children -- especially disadvantaged children -- are well-educated.  

Step three: if you want the same thing (and often you will), share your concern for the values you and your questioner have in common. 

You, too, want children to be well-educated. And you know that a totally free and unregulated market in the provision of education will very quickly lead to fantastic progress in the general standard of education. So you could say, "I want to make sure that all children have the opportunity to get a high-quality education. In fact, I want children to be better educated than they are now."  

At this point you could introduce an analogy to show how private provision of products and services leads to competition and better quality. You could also point out that throughout the world non-government schools virtually always provide better education than government schools. And so on. 

The Ransberger Pivot is a transition or prelude to your factual response. It prepares your questioner -- and those on the sidelines who are listening -- for your answer, by showing them the common ground between your position and theirs. The Ransberger Pivot swings the conversation very quickly away from a heated exchange of opposing world views, towards an intelligent discussion of the most effective and efficient means of meeting common objectives or ends.  

The Pivot diffuses hostility and builds harmony by showing that you share the questioner's concerns. The questioner and audience are then more likely to listen to -- and hear -- your answer, meaning that you are more likely to persuade them to your point of view.  

There's only one disadvantage to The Ransberger Pivot: it doesn't come naturally. You need to practise it to make it second nature. But it is very effective. Why don't you give it a try?

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