To change someone's mind

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Anthony Pica
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To change someone's mind

To change someone's mind

How do you change someone's mind? It's not easy. I'd argue it's not even possible.

That's right, you don't change someone's mind. Only they can change their mind.

I remember a meeting early in my consulting career where I was so prepared with stats and evidence and social proof that I thought I had "won" the decision before the conversation finished. Yet, in the end I didn't change their mind. It was as if each fact I provided had increased their skepticism and made them further dig into their original belief. Essentially, I tried too hard.

Persuasion is like makeup: it's usually at its best when you don't know it's there.

And when someone's belief is rooted in emotion, it's more likely that the presentation or delivery style of an argument—rather than the argument itself—will affect their willingness to change their mind.

The art of convincing someone is often a game of emotions.

Even in business, the customer buying process is subconsciously fueled by emotion: The hunt for a solution starts as an emotional decision to address a need, and then data and facts are used to justify the business decision.

Here is an approach to encouraging someone to change their mind:

First, lead the conversation by communicating with emotion.

  • Paraphrase their point of view to create empathy.
  • Identify points of agreement to convey belonging.
  • Admit your own uncertainty to build trust (if you can change your mind, it's okay for them to change theirs).

Next, help them acknowledge their uncertainty.

The key to changing someone's mind is to uncover doubt in their belief. To do this, invite them to elaborate on their position, and genuinely ask for examples with details. The act of explaining one's own belief is also a path to identifying one's ignorance.

As doubt increases, adamancy decreases, which creates space for new beliefs.

Then, stats and evidence and social proof can be shared.

Here's a revealing question you can try asking next time you're debating with someone: "What proof would it take to change your mind?" If they can't give you an answer, then attempting to change their mind might be a futile task.

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