Clear Communication in Business
Railroading is a corrupt form of communication designed to force a decision.
Railroading is an attempt to gain "agreement" without allowing the other person an opportunity to:
- State the opposite case
- Question the facts
- Question the reasoning
- Suggest alternative conclusions
As a general rule railroading is a negative factor because:
- Railroading prevents new information being properly considered
- It is insulting to the people being railroaded
- Intellectually railroading is bad because it can cause bad decisions.
- Emotionally railroading is bad because it can cause bad feelings.
Have you ever been in a situation where someone has railroaded the conversation?
The railroader used the:
- Strength of his-her personality or
- The power of his voice
Rather than the
- Strength of his argument and
- The power of his reasoning- in order to make his case
What was the effect of the railroading on you?
The effect was probably resignation and disengagement.
I.e. you resign yourself to the guy taking control of the decision irrespective of other points of view and you mentally disengage from the meeting.
You may become annoyed and frustrated at the useless way the meeting is being held and you might argue with the railroader.
What was the effect on the decision made?
Railroading has a negative effect on the quality of the decision making process.
It is important to learn the methods of railroading
Not so that you are able to railroad meetings!
But rather, so that you can recognise the railroaders tactics and then interject more effectively, with the proper challenge.
There are many ways to railroad a conversation
They all rely on committing a logical fallacy
A logical fallacy is a breach of logic.
Logical fallacies have been the source of much study from the time of Aristotle who was the founder of logic and the first person to lay down the laws of reasoning; and the ways of breaching the laws of reason.
Good advice: Learn the logical fallacies
Logical fallacies are common errors of logic that people make in thought and speech.
If you know them, it is easier to avoid them and make yourself more convincing.
If you know them you can challenged them when you hear faulty arguments.
If you do not know them: you arguments may contain weaknesses and you may be caught out by the railroader more easily.
- How can you argue logically if you don't know what the laws of logic are?
- How can you effectively identify a logical fallacy if you don't know what they are?
All railroading relies on committing logical fallacies
Below are five examples of logical fallacies
1. Complex question
Complex question is the act of asking two or more questions in one phrase and asking for a single yes or no answer that would seem to include both sub questions.
Example of a complex question
- Do you believe in freedom and my right to smoke cannabis?
- Do you believe in a fair and progressive tax system?
- Don't you agree with improving national security with ID cards?
2. Loaded question
A loaded question is a question which is worded in such a way that one of the options is made to seem either:
- Very unattractive or
- Very attractive
Example of a loaded question
- Only an idiot would agree to install the Johnson System: Who wants to sign up to the Johnson system?
- All intelligent people would reject joining the EU: hands up who wants to join the EU?
3. Democratic fallacy
Democratic fallacy is a very common method of railroading.
It is based on the false idea that the majority view is (by necessity) the correct view: i.e. that whatever is the most common view is right.
But remember that:
It is a mistake to believe that the majority opinion is necessarily a guide to intelligent action.
Example of the democratic fallacy
"You must be wrong: you're the only one who thinks it".
"Well you are in the minority here so you must be mistaken"
Be careful that you don't apply the democratic fallacy to yourself inside your own mind, in the following way:
You might say to yourself:
"I must be wrong BECAUSE I am the only one who thinks it"
Remember that the number of people who think something has no bearing whatsoever on the truth (or falsehood) of the statement.
I.e. it is possible that you are the only one who is right!
If you found that most people in the room thought that Sydney was the capital city of Australia that would not change the fact that Canberra is Australia's capital city.
If it is true that the number of people who think something has no bearing whatsoever on the truth (or falsehood) of any statement; then what should you go on when deciding what is true?
I.e. It is possible that you are the only one who is right!
Quote from ― Isaac Asimov
"Don't you believe in flying saucers, they ask me?
Don't you believe in telepathy? - In ancient astronauts? - In the Bermuda triangle? - In life after death?
No, I reply.
No, no, no, no, and again no.
One person recently, goaded into desperation by the litany of unrelieved negation, burst out "Don't you believe in anything?"
Yes, I said.
"I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I'll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it.
The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be."
4. False alternative
A false alternative is the act of offering only two possible alternatives in situations where, in reality, more than two exist
Example of the False-alternative
- Either you are with us or against us!
- You are either part of the problem or you're part of the solution
- You either accept what I am saying as the truth or are you calling me a liar?
- You were either incompetent or stupid: which one?
Note that the form of the false alternative is:
- It is either Black or white: pick one.
- It is either north or south: pick one.
Both of these are fallacious
- It is either Black or not black: choose!
- It is either north or not north: choose.
Both of these are correct statements: i.e. they are not fallacious
5. Ad hominem
Ad hominem means "to the man"
The fallacy takes the form of criticizing the man (or woman) rather that the content of his argument.
Example of the ad hominem
My doctor told me that I should lose weight; but what does he know? Look at him! He is 4 stone overweight!
You claim that a 50% tax rate on top earners is unjust: but that is only because you are rich!
You say that we should be more focused on solving problems and finding customers rather than complaining about our bad luck.
That is easy for you to say that!
You already have your customers and your big house.
For your communications skills information
Here is a list of the main fallacies:
- Ad Hominem
- Ad Hominem Tu Quoque
- Appeal to Authority
- Appeal to Belief
- Appeal to Common Practice
- Appeal to Consequences of a Belief
- Appeal to Emotion
- Appeal to Fear
- Appeal to Flattery
- Appeal to Novelty
- Appeal to Pity
- Appeal to Popularity
- Appeal to Ridicule
- Appeal to Spite
- Appeal to Tradition
- Begging the Question
- Biased Sample
- Burden of Proof
- Circumstantial Ad Hominem
- Confusing Cause and Effect
- False Dilemma
- Gambler's Fallacy
- Genetic Fallacy
- Guilt By Association
- Hasty Generalization
- Ignoring A Common Cause
- Middle Ground
- Misleading Vividness
- Personal Attack
- Poisoning the Well
- Post Hoc
- Questionable Cause
- Red Herring
- Relativist Fallacy
- Slippery Slope
- Special Pleading
- Straw Man
- Two Wrongs Make A Right
For more iinformation about communication skills training visit the Corporate Coach Group website