Embedding a Fact Within Another Story


I was talking with a friend the other day. I've talked to him before about Islam, but he's one of those people who tries to find some way of thinking about it so he doesn't have to think about it anymore. Things like "it is only the extremists, and our security forces will take care of them." Or "most Muslims don't believe that stuff, so we can all just get along. After all, there are extremists in every religion, and there's no good reason to pick on Islam."

I've disabused him of most of these ideas in previous conversations, but he still holds out hope that he can go on about his life without having to think about something as terrifying as, "The core doctrines of Islam are imperialistic, supremacist, and violent toward non-Muslims."

Anyway, I thought of a way to sink a single, solid fact into his brain without him rejecting it. I embedded the fact in a story about something else. It was like putting medicine into a piece of meat and feeding it to your dog. He never knew it happened.

I said, "It's amazing — you can find a book on anything. Last night I was looking for a book on Winston Churchill. I've heard that he read Mein Kampf when it was first published, and as he saw Hitler rising to power, Churchill was trying to tell people, 'I've read his book, and he poses a danger to Britain, and something should be done to stop him,' but people didn't like this message, so they ignored him."

My friend said, "I've heard about that."

I said, "I think they even expelled him from Parliament.

He looked surprised. "Really?"

"Well, I don't know. But I'm about to find out. I found two books on just that period in Winston Churchill's life last night and I ordered one of them. I'll let you know. I thought of trying to find a book on it when I heard about a Dutch politician who was trying to get the Koran banned in the Netherlands. Mein Kampf is already banned in the Netherlands, and has been banned for a long time, because of the Jew hatred in the book, and this Dutch politician said someone had counted it up and discovered that there's more Jew hatred in the Koran than in Mein Kampf!"

That was the single solid fact I wanted to sink into his brain.

I went on, "And of course, everybody freaked out when he said that."

"I'll bet they did," he nodded.

"But I'm interested in what happens when you try to tell someone something they really don't want to believe," I said. "Because eventually, of course, once it became painfully clear to everyone that Hitler was, in fact, a real threat to Britain, they went back to Churchill because he was the one who was right all along."

I was on a roll, so I just kept talking, like I sometimes do. "Did you ever read the book by Elie Wiesel? It's called Night."

"I think I've heard of it," he said, "but I haven't read it."

"It's Elie Wiesel's story. He lived in a remote village in Hungary, and one day the police showed up and said all foreign Jews had to leave. They ushered them onto a train and away they went. One of the men escaped and came back to the village to tell a horrifying tale. All the foreign Jews had been taken across the border into Poland, and then taken out into the woods and shot. This dude had taken months to get back to the village to warn them about what was happening. And nobody listened to him. Not one person in his village believed him."

"Yeah, I think I've heard about this story," he said thoughtfully.

"It's a powerful little book," I said, "but that's only the first part. Wiesel was a young teenager when this happened. His story goes on. The Germans eventually came to take all the Jews, and the whole town was packing up their belongings and very distressed about what was happening when the foreign Jew poked his head in the Wiesel home and shouted angrily, 'I told you!' He warned them in time to get away. If the Wiesels had believed him, they could have gotten out of the country in time. But nobody wanted to believe him."

"Well," said my friend, "it was pretty unbelievable, what happened."

I could only say, "That's true."

We went on to talk about other things, but that one fact about Jew hatred in the Koran sunk in with no resistance. It is an important enough fact— and a fundamental enough fact — that from now on he will probably see world events through a new lens, especially conflicts between Jews and Muslims.

The principle is simple: A fact is usually accepted with little or no resistance when it is embedded within another message. Think about that when you're sharing what you know about Islam. Think about what fact is important. Pick one. Then think of a way you can embed that fact in an interesting story about something else.

Or think about a story you want to tell and then think of a way to work a good fact into the middle of that story somewhere in a way that doesn't stand out. In other words, embed the fact so the fact itself is not the main point, but is an aside, or an incidental point on the way to saying something else that captures attention.

Let's find ways around our listeners' resistance and get better at getting through. The future of the free world might just depend on it.



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