This is my attempt at parsing the first ten minutes or so of the Waking Up podcast with Harris and Adams.
I have learned persuasion through Adams’s recommended material and observation of the man himself for over two years now. This is another exercise in learning persuasion.
I won’t try to differentiate between beginner and advanced stuff. It mostly looks the same to me.
“Thanks for having me,” is actually under appreciated. Adams sets the table with a friendly tone.
A few minutes in, after Harris has dissed journalistic ethics, Adams then says: “Yeah, I agree.” This gets himself on Harris’s side early. Pacing, pacing. Harris also mentions “gotcha” questions and other unethical maneuvers. Adams continues on to say, “I wouldn’t worry about me because like you, I’ve done a few of these.” Highlighting similarities.
Ok, now the real stuff Let’s see what Adams packs into a 294 word piece of dialogue.
Adams: Well I should tell your listeners  first of all that I have a background as a trained hypnotist, and  I’ve been studying the field of persuasion all of my adult life as part of my job,  its part of what a writer does, its part of what a cartoonist needs.
 Introducing himself as a trained hypnotist is an attention grabber. You don’t hear people say that at any other point in most people’s realities, and never with the specific word order as he does. The clause also segues into another credibility-builder, , and opens up curiosity in the listener’s mind in . Together, there’s nothing about what Adams says here that sounds bland. Every single person listening has their head prompted for a new perspective. (I do think  might just be Adams explaining things. I don’t know if it’s too important for persuasion. Someone tell me if I’m wrong.)
Adams: So, when I saw Trump enter the race, I noticed fairly quickly that he had the strongest set of persuasion skills I’ve ever seen.
After establishing his credibility and unique perspective, Adams begins to show us the story of President Trump. And he does it by pitching a directional exaggeration from here to Mars. Well, maybe it’s not that much of an exaggeration. Anyway, the point is that the phrase feels awe inspiring. You can’t hear it in the transcript, but he also says it that way, with emphasis. Your rational brain will try to argue with the point, and meanwhile, you’ll be focusing on “Trump ~= persuasion.”
Adams: He has what I call  a skill stack, a complementary set of skills that, if you looked at any one of those skills you’d say,  “well that’s good, that’s better than most people, but that’s not any world class particular special skill.”  But when you put them together, they’re insanely effective. You know, as we can see, because he’s president.  He made it against all odds.
This sentence injects Adams’s “talent stack” idea, , into the conversation. Most people never hear skill acquisition described this way, so it’s new. Another hit of attention grabbing novelty. But it presupposes that Trump has skills, which is hard to hold in your head alongside the idea of him as a buffoon. Note Adams doesn’t say which skills. That’s harder to disagree with, and it allows the listener to fill in the blanks themselves. Then  is all pacing. Most people would agree, Trump is not the top 1% of any particular skill. So Adams has the audience with him when he pivots and says, in , “But when you put them together, they’re insanely effective, you know, as we can see, because he’s president.” Adams then finishes the “lead” he introduced by tying it back to a widely agreeable statement, “[Trump] made it against all odds.”
“Trump made it against all odds,” is actually a real beauty. On the left, people can hear this and agree that its unbelievable that Trump is president. On the right, people can hear it and agree that Trump had to elbow, shoulder and shove his way through hundreds of obstacles.
Adams: And, my view on the politics of it is that  my political preferences didn’t align with either side in the election.  I consider myself an ultra-liberal on social stuff,  meaning that even liberals don’t recognize me, because I’m more liberal than liberals.  I can give you some examples to fill that in if you want.
Here in  Adams positions himself in political neutrality. It’s a subtle way of making himself seem unbiased. He proceeds to pace “liberals” and Democrats with , leaving them scratching their heads as to how, exactly, someone can “out-liberal” a liberal. It’s another “exaggerate really hard in one direction” maneuver. As a potentially unintended side effect, it also gives listeners the impression that they could be more liberal if they tried. He goes on to say in  that liberals won’t recognize him as a liberal, pre-empting accusations of him being a Republican. If they call him a Trump supporter now, he will just say, “I said you wouldn’t recognize my liberal views.” My favorite part is  because it moves the attention off whether his political views really would be left of the left and and onto, “What examples would he give us?”
Adams: And then on the big stuff, you know, the international stuff, the “how do you beat ISIS?” and, whats the best thing to do with north korea? My view is that none of us really know the answer to that. Because we don’t have the information the government would have, and we don’t have the full context that they would have. SO generally I don’t have a firm position on the big international stuff, and on the smaller local stuff, the domestic stuff, I am in favor of people doing whatever they want as long as it doesn’t effect me.
Here Adams slips in a bit of intellectual humility that sounds very reasonable. I doubt many people even disagree with this when he says it, unless he’s already triggered them into disagreement.
Now a larger picture of what he’s done. Adams builds a lot of premises in on top of each other, which means you have to disagree or show that many parts are false before the frame falls apart. This will sound like reason, but I promise, it isn’t that.
We have the idea that Adams recognizes part of reality that we don’t. Hypnotist, persuasion. That allows him the early recognition of Trump as the strongest persuader he’s ever seen. He has a bunch of different skills — but the listener will figure out which ones on their own, after the frame has been set. The election results seem to (now retroactively) confirm this anyways. And because Adams was saying this a year and a bit before the election, it’s consistent and seems more credible. Lastly, there’s the identity play. Adams is on your side!