How Spartans successfully pitch ideas to a tough crowd

How do you make sure good ideas win?

Once upon a time the Spartan elders of the gerousia liked a proposal but didn’t like the proposer.  

They wanted to take the bill to the general Spartiate assembly to be voted and ratified, but the man who came up with the idea did not live a life of good repute, and all the Spartans knew it.

The elders knew that if they submitted it to the assembly, the Spartans would vote it down, regardless of its merit, because of the man who proposed it.

Can you imagine what they did?  Did they try to reason with the Spartans?  “Trust in reason, not in your emotions about this man!” “Pretty flowers sometimes spring from cow dung!” “Don’t fall victim to the ad hominem fallacy!”

Of course not.  They found a good man, and had him present the good proposal.

Spartans as a whole, in their decision making, were influenced more by the behavior than by the speech of their counsellors.  The elders wanted to keep it that way. 

The character of the speaker matters more than the actual idea?  It’s not a perfect principle, but there are good reasons for affirming it.

Even if it’s a bad principle, it’s the way most people actually work.  Of the three elements of persuasion – character of the speaker, emotion, and reason (i.e. ethos, pathos, and logos), ethos is by far the strongest, according to Aristotle.

You need to get a good idea approved, but you don’t have a good reputation?  Then accept reality and find someone who does have the reputation.  They can champion the idea for you.

But then, turn your attention to becoming the second Spartan in the story.  Become the sort of person people ask to champion orphaned ideas. 

Stay Ancient,