I have developed my skills in persuasion through the process of reading against the grain. At first, the concept seemed too tedious and, most of the time, too difficult to even attempt as I did not find myself truly analyzing the things that were presented before me.
It’s amazing what one semester can do.
You know that feeling you would get when your teachers asked you to do peer reviews in class and all you would leave with were some minimal details and a whole lot of “good?” This feeling of hearing feedback that was not exactly helpful feedback was how I first felt about reading against the grain. I was not thoughtfully and actively participating in conversations, readings, arguments, etc. I could recognize something I liked and call it good, I could recognize something I did not like and call it bad, but I never questioned it. And this is something that is hard to do. Persuasion has to consider so many things from biases to the way something is styled and delivered. It is nearly impossible to cover everything. However, the ability to recognize just some of these things in others and in the self greatly enhances your persuasive skills. Reading against the grain, and becoming a more thoughtful person, both enhance the ability to recognize these tactics and biases used in persuasion.
In fact, I will argue that being thoughtful is a main (if not the most important) quality to have when attempting to read against the grain. Pullman began his textbook with the suggestion to actively learn or “do[ing] something with what you are learning as you are learning it” (1). A thoughtful person listens to what others has to say. A thoughtful person actively responds to another person by asking questions and taking mental notes. A person who reads against the grain does the same thing. There are always more questions to be answered; the persuaded is no longer a passive listener but a thoughtful, active listener and participator.
When I read or listen to something now, even when I do peer reviews, I find I am more thoughtful and, with this, I can read against the grain more easily. Even writing this statement, I had to thoughtfully consider my audience and decide whether I wanted to do my typical academic paper or take a different tone with it. As sad as it may be, I never truly considered audiences when writing before this year. Even though every time I have been thoughtful in the past I have considered whether another person (aka my audience) would like my act of kindness, it never occurred to me to use this kind of consideration for school. Learning about the ins and outs of persuasion and learning how to read against the grain has expanded my thoughtfulness. Like we say in my Intro to Rhetoric class, I have begun to practice suspending judgement. Instead of agreeing or disagreeing with something, I carefully think through and question what is being presented. I think about my potential bias. I think about the speaker’s tone and presentation. I even think about body language. And through all of this, I am becoming a more thoughtful person which, in turn, increases my persuasive abilities.