Why is It So Hard to Change People’s Minds?

Having a very close relative that is at polar opposites with me politically is hard, but I love him. Others have asked how do you do it? That is if you both feel very strongly in your beliefs how can you deal with these very strong polar opposite perspectives? I have found an article that explains it from the Greater Good Science Center exploring neuroscience and how we interact with one another. This makes sense to me so I wanted to go over it with you and maybe you may want to share this with others too.

I read this article from the Greater Good Science Center and that inspired me to write this post. What is the bottom line?

“No matter how high-minded your intentions, it can be tempting to turn any dialogue on the issues into a game of one-upmanship.

But asking questions—and showing a genuine desire to hear and acknowledge the answers—sets a different tone that boosts the odds of a productive resolution, or at least a friendlier stalemate that inspires further thought and discussion. Persuasion that endures isn’t a one-sided sales job, but a fertile exchange—one in which your own thinking may evolve in ways you hadn’t expected.”

Let’s explore this further. My relative and I grew up very close and along the way we always stayed in touch. Through time we each developed volunteer activities and relationships with others and our spouses that over time have placed us on opposite ends of the spectrum from one another politically. If we were to dive into this emotionally and logically we both know that neither will convince the other. We know all we would do is enter into a game of one-upmanship. So how do we do we maintain civil, caring and a loving relationship with one another?

This article holds several keys:

We both are avid volunteers with our causes;

We have strong beliefs and convictions related to politics, LGBT, and religion;

Researchers on cognitive dissonance “—note that most people would rather deny or downplay new, uncomfortable information than reshape their worldview to accommodate it.”

If one of us has doubt (and who does not?), when pushed the receiver tends to dig in;

If you try to reverse the other’s mind the less impact you will have;

The more you listen and don’t push the greater your impact and you may just begin to understand elements of their perspective;

Having a mutual respect for one another is extremely helpful. This comes from continuing to foster a relationship and listening to one another;

Accept the other person as a person and not as demagogue;

Work to develop a relationship by listening;

Ask open ended questions;

Control your desire to go negative;

In the end as taken in the more elaborate quote above show “a genuine desire to hear and acknowledge the answers—sets a different tone that boosts the odds of a productive resolution, or at least a friendlier stalemate that inspires further thought and discussion.”

Neither of us is perfect, but we have found a way to cope given our differences. This article spoke to me. I hope this blog and article can speak to you and help you too. Consider the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California –Berkeley, the source of this article as a resource for you too.

Michael Gregory, NSA, ASA, CVA, MBA is an international speaker, that helps organization resolve conflict and negotiate winning solutions. Mike is dedicated to making individuals, organizations, thought-leading entrepreneurs and executives more successful. Michael’s books, including The Servant Manager, How to Work with the IRS, Second Edition and his most recent book, now available in hard copy and as an eBook, Peaceful Resolutions. On point resources are available online at www.mikegreg.com and check out the blog. Contact Mike directly at mg@mikegreg.com or call (651) 633-5311. 

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