In this post you’ll find a few cutting edge ideas in the art
of changing people’s minds.
The ability to move people with one view to another is among
the set of things that differentiates the good from the great, whether this is
in the subject of romance or business. Often the moment we make up our minds
about a certain subject, it’s hard for anyone to change it, whether that anyone
is someone else, or as it sometimes happens, ourselves.
A few ideas on how to change minds
As you probably noticed this is a subject that very few have
mastery over, let alone any valuable knowledge about, and the few who do get to
do it successfully still fail to do so once in a while. Which means that
changing people’s minds is not a black or white matter, meaning that you can’t
be sure that you’ll do it successfully or not when the moment calls for it, but
there is certainly a few things you can do to increase your odds.
Avoid Ad-Hominem kind of arguments
We all have our set of core beliefs, and also tend to
associate our identity to them. With this also comes the tendency to place
anyone who doesn’t believe on what believe in, in the enemy side of the table.
Ad hominem arguments are arguments that instead of relying on logic and staying
on topic, are based attacks made to the person we are arguing with. Instead of
pointing the flaws on the other person’s argument, we try to point to the flaws
in the person to try to invalidate their argument. The problem with these kinds of attacks is
that everybody has an ego to some degree, and we are wired to protect our egos.
By attacking the person instead of their arguments we make them more resistant
to change, since accepting it means that whatever attack to their ego is
automatically proven right. This is leaving the fact that the discussion stops
being about the initial topic, and becomes more about character flaws, which
defeats the initial purpose in the first place.
The problem with arguments is that they eventually become a
personal matter, where being right is more important than finding the truth. In
the beginning both think they are right, and it’s all a matter of showing one’s
argument to show the other side of the table how wrong they are. But
eventually, valid points are dismissed, and the weaknesses of each other’s
arguments are more paid attention to. One solution for this kind of dynamic is
to keep a curious mind. A curious mind is not trying to be right, but trying to
find the truth, and more important than just doing this internally, is to show
it outwardly that this is what you’re trying to do. This will force both to
fight the urge mentioned above, the urge to dismiss valid points, and emphasize
the invalid ones for the sake of being right.
Study the other side better than them
The billionaire investor Charlie Munger is known to have
said that he doesn’t give himself the right to argue a point until he knows the
other side better than the opposition. By doing this you give yourself the
ammunition to argue your point better than they can, and more important than
that, also the certainty that your point really is the right one. Often
studying the opposition can help you become more humble, since, as you probably
heard at some point or another, the more you know, the more you become aware of
how ignorant you are. The sense that we know all there is to know might be less
of what goes by the name of self-confidence, but more of what we call by the
name of ignorance.
Appeal to emotions if logic fails
I’m sure you heard that humans are more emotion than logic
driven. This, like pretty much any frequently repeated idea has its own seed of
truth. Assuming we know the truth, and the other person is the one who has to
be convinced, it would be amazing if armed with the highest logic in the world
we were able to bring everybody to the light. The problem is that often we all
think we know the truth, even when we have evidence of the opposite. We can
easily assume that either the evidence is wrong, or it was wrongly interpreted.
When we have conviction on our beliefs, it’s easier, and to some degree more
compelling to assume that there is something we don’t know about the evidence,
that if we did know would somehow prove the evidence invalid.
Oddly, enough, it’s also possible to do the opposite. To
bring a person with all the evidence in the world to prove their convictions,
to believe in the opposite side. The way this happens is still a mystery to us,
but a part of it is known. That part or thing is emotion.
We are biased to believing on what our own emotions tell us.
If we feel like we are worthless because someone made us feel that way, the
fact that we feel it must mean that we are worthless. This can be said to be a
part of the reason why depression is such a tricky subject. What might have begun
as a hormonal, or neurochemical imbalance, could become a self-fulfilling
prophecy where a completely healthy and happy person leads herself to suicide.
The fact that I feel confident must mean that there is something good about me
to back that confidence, even if there is nothing. Confidence, and the feeling
of depression are just two elements of our psyche that could just as likely be
triggered by nothing, as they could be by something real. Same goes to our
One thing that makes devote religious people devoted is in
part the feeling they tend to report of the presence of a Deity. If you feel
like God is present in your life, God must exist, even if the most scientific
of the scientists brings you evidence showing the opposite. Feeling something
has a similar effect to seeing something with our own eyes: it represents the
highest form of proof to us and our own minds. If you’ve seen it, it must
exist. This is also the reason why the delusional and the schizophrenic have a
hard time in distinguishing the truth from the figments of their imagination.
The point is that if logic fails, even if you present the
evidence, chances are that the person knows what she knows “emotionally”. So,
if you can, the route to take is different, and rather difficult. The new
solution is to do what confident and charismatic people do to turn opponents into
friends: make them feel it. A confident person can make you believe in
something regardless of the fact that it’s true or not simply because they are
able to make you feel their truth. Dreamers convicted that they will achieve
their dreams can for example, lose their conviction if they are made feel
stupid for having such dreams, even if the dreams can in truth be realized.
Remember that there is no such thing as a completely wrong
As humans we are biased to the feeling that what we do, and
our opinions are the right thing to do, and anyone who does or thinks the
opposite is completely wrong. This is in part why till this day, we still face
issues such as racism, struggle between religious beliefs, and people fighting
opposite political sides. The thing about any discussion is that small are the
odds that one of the parts is completely right, and the other is completely
wrong. Most of us are to some extent rational and intelligent, which makes it
unlikely that in a discussion either side is completely wrong.
This is a problem if as a business, or as a personality your
image is negatively perceived, or associated with something negative. Again, we
tend to think in batches, and summaries of things, instead of consider the validity
of the components. So, if a negative stain attached to your image chances are
that anything coming from you or your brand will be perceived as negative, even
if it’s positive.
The solution for this kind of problem is simple. As, the
book The 48 laws of Power by Robert Greene teaches us: to protect your
reputation in the first place. One could employ persuasion strategies to fix
stained images in the minds of the public, but once such thing happens, the
little we can do to fix it, has minimal effect. Think of the greatest
personalities who were involved in some sort of scandal, who even with all the
resources in the world were unable to go back to how they used to be perceived.
Just like with cheating, even when forgiven, you’re never perceived, or trusted
In regard to this subject, there is one last thing you can
do if you notice your argument is being completely rejected even if there are
valid components being batched with the rejection. That thing is to call the
other side on it. We live in a world in which
being open-minded, and understanding are desirable traits, and to some
degree even forced upon us. Something as simple as bringing attention to valid
points, and getting the other side to acknowledge their validity can help you
build a case from scratch. From a point where your whole point was wrong, to
the acknowledgment that it’s not that “black and white”.
Remember to sound and be confident
Among the set of traits we all desire and expect from
others, confidence is one of the most popular. A confident person makes us feel
confident on what they say or do. This is another reason why some people can
make a person with all the facts to their point literally abandon what would be
considered the right point of view for the opposite and incorrect point of
view. By speaking with confidence, you kind of make the other side feel that
confidence on your judgment and argument, and thus more likely to switch views.
Confidence has two problems however. The first is that,
well, to sound confident in a way that doesn’t sound fake one has to be and
feel confident. I think we all heard of the idea that the best and most convincing
lie is the lie we tell to ourselves. If you think about it, this is in part why
the most horrible of the crimes ever committed which involved masses of people,
like Hitler in Germany, is that he himself believed on the wrong thing, and the
fact that it was a wrong belief it didn’t prevent masses of people to follow
and obey him.
Speaking out loud is one thing, but believing is another.
Some people just say confident like things, while others feel and behave that
The second problem with confidence is that it has to be
backed up by something. We can lie our way into feeling and behaving with
confidence, you know … that “fake it until you make it” idea. The problem
with that however, is that just like gambling your savings in the stock market,
it might work in the short term, but in the long run it can prove to be an
ineffective strategy. The reason for this is that this kind of confidence is
based or backed up on/by nothing. True confidence must be backed up by something,
and that something is your ability to
solve or tackle a certain class of problems. In other words, true confidence is
backed up by skill and mastery in something. Those serve as “proof” of what you
say you can do since you can easily show it the moment calls you on your
In business one can have confidence in the product or
services it offers. Making sure they deliver on expectations better than the
competition gives you more substance to “brag on” in marketing campaigns, as
opposed to trying to find an angle to convince prospective customers that you
are a good choice.
So, the take away message is: be confident, but back it up with something,
be that something your mastery of a skill, or a large breath of knowledge and
wisdom in as subject.
Sometimes changing a person’s mind is a pointless effort,
since they might have their mind made up on what they want to believe. It’s
said now that if after a some back and forth trying to convince a person of
your point they stick to their “guns”, chances are that any further effort will
be with no results still. So, if after some time trying to change a person’s
mind you see no results even with all the evidence you bring, chances are that
maybe you should just leave it be. There are certainly better places to invest
your mental and physical energy on.
It is all about knowledge and experience 😉
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