4.4.3 Persuading Others to Behave Acceptably

Persuading others to behave acceptably is sometimes necessary, because peaceful pluralism depends upon people not offending each other.

Socially acceptable behaviour, as described in the previous section (4.4.2), evolves naturally as people interact:

●  They show each other what is socially acceptable by example.

●  They can intervene, to ask someone to behave differently.

●  They can express ideas and make recommendations to influence other people’s beliefs and thereby influence their future behaviour (4.3.3).

If people discuss what is and is not socially acceptable, they can agree to adjust their expectations of each other.

These influences constitute a form of governance which is present in all interactions between people.  With goodwill it is self-sustaining without calling upon any other form of authority.

It can be argued that a person would not wish to be told how to behave, and that people should therefore leave each other alone because that is likely to be preferable to any form of intervention.  This might be seen as considerate, but that is a superficial analysis.  People would have no means of avoiding discomfort unless they were able to ask others to refrain from behaviour which is offending or harming them; they should therefore grant other people similar rights to request changes.

There may be complications if persuading others to behave acceptably becomes necessary, though, as reviewed in the following sub-sections:

●  In some circumstances people will resist requests from their fellow citizens ( Peer pressure within a close-knit group can be effective, but with strangers it is necessary to be very careful.

●  People may demand to know why they are being asked to modify their customary behaviour (, so some justification is needed: explaining that conceding a change is better than conflict.



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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/443a.htm