How do you change a mind?
Rely on objective facts and statistics. Develop a strong case for your side, back it up with hard, cold, irrefutable data, and voila!
It doesn’t work.
The mind doesn’t follow the facts. Facts, as John Adams put it, are stubborn things, but our minds are even more stubborn. Doubt isn’t always resolved in the face of facts for even the most enlightened among us, however credible and convincing those facts might be.
If facts don’t work, how do you change a mind, whether it’s your own or your neighbor’s?
1. Give the mind an out
We’re reluctant to acknowledge mistakes. To avoid admitting we were wrong, we’ll twist ourselves into positions that even seasoned yogis can’t hold.
The key is to trick the mind by giving it an excuse. Convince your own mind (or your friend) that your prior decision or prior belief was the right one given what you knew, but now that the underlying facts have changed, so should the mind.
But instead of giving the mind an out, we often go for a punch to the gut. We belittle the other person (“I told you so”). We ostracize (“Basket of deplorables”). We ridicule (“What an idiot”).
2. Your beliefs are not you
We all tend to identify with our beliefs and arguments. This is my business, This is my article. This is my idea.
When your beliefs are entwined with your identity, changing your mind means changing your identity. That’s a really hard sell.
A possible solution, and one that I’ve adopted in my own life, is to put a healthy separation between you and the products of you. I changed my vocabulary to reflect this mental shift. At conferences, instead of saying, “In this paper, I argue . . .,” I began to say “This paper argue.”
This subtle verbal tweak tricked my mind into thinking that my arguments and me were not one and the same. It was no longer personal. It was simply a hypothesis proven wrong.
3. Build up your empathy muscle
Humans operate on different frequencies. If someone disagrees with you, it’s not because they’re wrong, and you’re right. It’s because they believe something that you don’t believe.
The challenge is to figure out what that thing is and adjust your frequency. If employment is the primary concern of the Detroit auto worker, showing him images of endangered penguins (as adorable as they may be) or Antarctica’s melting glaciers will get you nowhere. Instead, show him how renewable energy will provide job security to his grandchildren. Now, you’ve got his attention.
4. Get out of your echo chamber
We live in a perpetual echo chamber. We friend people like us on Facebook. We follow people like us on Twitter. We read the news outlets that are on the same political frequency as us.
This means our opinions aren’t being stress tested nearly as frequently as they should.
Make a point to befriend people who disagree with you. Expose yourself to environments where your opinions can be challenged, as uncomfortable and awkward as that might be.
Strongly believe in an idea, but be willing to change your opinion if the facts show otherwise.
Ask yourself, “What fact would change one of my strongly held opinions?” If the answer is “no fact would change my opinion,” you’re in trouble. A person who is unwilling to change his or her mind even with an underlying change in the facts is, by definition, a fundamentalist.
In the end, it takes courage and determination to see the truth instead of the convenient. But it’s well worth the effort.
Read more here: Ozan Varol
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