“You can trust me, honest.”

“I don’t want to influence your opinion, I just want you to hear me out.”

“I am not a crook.”

What do all three statements have in common? None are entirely convincing. For example, if the speaker is genuinely trustworthy, would he need to tell us that?

What about this one:

“This opportunity is incredible! We are going to the moon on this one—I’m telling you, there’s never been a comp plan like this, ever!”

I’m not convinced. In fact, the very effort to convince me contains within it the seeds of its own undoing. The word convince derives from the Latin vincere, meaning to conquer. To convince means “to overcome in argument.” It is said, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” And really, is there any other way to be convinced than against your will?

Those who assert their cause with the greatest zeal often insult or injure those they seek to convert, and even do damage to the cause itself. It’s the core problem of emphatic assertions: they follow Newton’s laws of motion. Every push invokes its counterpush: zealous declamation creates equal and opposite resistance.

And not only outwardly. Arjuna Ardagh points out that every belief we assert within ourselves comes with its equal and opposite counterbelief, springing full-grown like Athena from the forehead of Zeus. The assertion “I’m a good person!” can exist only with its sly fraternal twin, Am I really a bad person?

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” says Queen Gertrude in Hamlet (Act 3, scene 2). In Shakespeare’s time, “protest” did not mean to deny or object: it meant to assert, as in “He protested his innocence,” or, “I do protest with all Vigour the Goode and Comely Virtues of our Companie’s Hybrid Comp Planne.” The queen’s dry observation is that the lady was making an emphatic assertion—and the queen was not convinced.

What to do? Abandon all enthusiasm, keep one’s passions and convictions to oneself? Not at all. There are two classes of declaration. There is the forceful assertion, and then there is the simple statement of fact that springs from the quiet stillness of authenticity. The first is borne of the realm of beliefs; the second, from the realm of simple knowing. This is reflected in Gandhi’s enormously popular epigraph, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

If you’re trying to convince others, the chances are excellent that it’s not something you genuinely know to be true, but only something of which you have convinced yourself.

Don’t seek to convince people of the need to change. Be the change.

JOHN DAVID MANN is Consulting Editor to Networking Times.