- Be so open that you could have your own mind changed.
When two people are standing on opposing sides of an issue, it can be tough to get either one of them to budge. They might hurl facts and figures at one another, and articulate perfectly logical arguments on both sides, but somehow none of it matters and both people remain just as married to their positions as ever.
The problem is that we filter information through our feelings, our instincts, and our life experiences and circumstances. This is known as “The Affect Heuristic” and it means that data simply aren’t enough to change our judgments, views, and opinions.
One potential strategy for attempting to work your way out of this holding pattern is simply to demonstrate the change you’d like to see in the other. But, it has to be sincere. If you show that you are working so hard to resolve this debate that you are actually open to having your own mind changed, the other person might just follow your lead and be a little more willing to budge too. Maybe you can land on a suitable compromise somewhere in the middle. At the very least, you’ll learn something about how difficult the process of changing your mind really is, and that could help you to influence the discussion in more significant and meaningful ways.
There are other behaviors that might be helpful during your discussion if you want to work toward changing someone’s mind. First and foremost, be sure to be a good listener when talking about the issue at hand. That means making eye contact, asking follow up questions, and not interrupting. Your goal as a good listener is to make the other person feel heard. If you demonstrate these behaviors during your talk, the other person is much more likely to do the same with you. And, in order for you to have any chance of shifting their position, they first have to be willing and able to listen to yours.
- Don’t go back and forth too much.
New research out of Cornell University examined data from more than two years of postings on the Reddit forum ChangeMyView. Here, posters present their position on an issue and others debate with them. If someone has a change of heart, they mark the post that made them reconsider with a specific symbol. By tracking these posts, researchers sought to uncover information about what causes people to change the way they think about an issue.
They were able to draw a few interesting conclusions. First of all, they found that posts that received a lot of feedback were more likely to show a change of heart, and the people who responded early on in those threads were most often the ones to be credited with sparking the shift. However, once the back-and-forth had gone on for a while, there was almost no chance of anyone changing their mind. It’s important to know when enough is enough.
- Pay close attention to your language, and theirs.
Cornell researchers also examined the language that was used by Reddit posters who effected change, and they found some common themes. Longer, more detailed posts were more often convincing than shorter ones, and calmer language also seemed to be more persuasive. Also, using specific examples to illustrate a point seemed to prove effective.
Researchers also noticed that the language of the original poster suggested how open they might be to having their own mind changed. When they used the pronoun “I,” their opinions proved to be much more changeable than when the word “we” was used. Also, folks with “changeable opinions” expressed their positions using calm and positive words like “help” and “please” and they also used more adjectives and adverbs when framing their position. So, if you want to change someone’s mind, paying attention to language, both your own and that of the person you’re communicating with, could also help you shift things in your direction.
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