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Bewilder Your Opponent by Mere Bombast


Techniques General persuasion > The Art of Being Right > Bewilder Your Opponent by Mere Bombast

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



You may also puzzle and bewilder your opponent by mere bombast; and the trick is possible, because a man generally supposes that there must be some meaning in words:

Gewöhnlich glaubt der Mensch, wenn er nur Worte hört,
Es müsse sich dabei doch auch was denken lassen.

If he is secretly conscious of his own weakness, and accustomed to hear much that he does not understand, and to make as though he did, you can easily impose upon him by some serious fooling that sounds very deep or learned, and deprives him of hearing, sight, and thought; and by giving out that it is the most indisputable proof of what you assert. It is a well-known fact that in recent times some philosophers have practised this trick on the whole of the public with the most brilliant success. But since present examples are odious, we may refer to The Vicar of Wakefield for an old one.


 Did you know--of course you do--of the Waltons of Ascot? Well their prize filly was flying past the post as I was saying to old Wally that the markets are on the up. It's to do with the pan-European oscillations counterinteracting with the American restabilization index. So he's putting his money with me on oil this month. I could do the same for you, what? Fancy a dead cert? 


Bombast is 'pompous or pretentious talk' that may not mean much. To the naive, however, bombastic talk sounds grand and impressive.

It is surprising how many people, fearing that they might appear unintelligent, will nod wisely as the bombast talks merrily away about nothing at all. Having thus hypnotized them, the speaker can then add their request or real point at the end of the bombastic speech (which often need not be long) and the other person will agree rather than have to question what they did not understand.

A key part of bombastic speech is confident assertiveness. If you speak as if something is true, it is surprising how many will accept what you say without question.

'Bewilder Your Opponent by Mere Bombast' is the thirty-sixth of Schopenhauer's stratagems.

See also

Assertiveness, Assumption principle


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