153 Tyndall Field, Florida WWII

A thoughtful little conversation can lead to big viewpoint changes if you let go of controlling the dialogue and winning arguments.

The beauty of this method for changing minds is that it lets you sit back and guide your target audience through their own thought process.  As we previously mentioned, you cannot talk someone out of their reality or into a new one.  We can, however, provide environments where someone encounters a new situation that offers an opportunity for them to experience a different reality, therefore shifting theirs.  Today’s strategy is based on numerous experiments which asked students to write an essay that disagrees with their personal beliefs.  The results of these studies show that after writing the essays, the students were more favorable to the position they supported in the essay than they previously were.

So, let’s translate these results into something we can use in our daily life.  Finding a way to get your audience to play devil’s advocate to themselves is the key goal. They need to reason through the information in their own brain, no one can do it for them.  You may need to employ some creativity getting them to the point where this can happen, but we have a few suggestions to get you started.

  1. Hypothetically speaking…
    • Just like the essay studies, we ask our counterpart to take a different view.
    • Thought provoking, challenging questions are the key.
    • This can be in the form of how do you think others think questions like: ‘Why do you think people disagree with you about global warming?’ and ‘What could be another reason?’  and ‘If you were to believe in global warming, why do you think you would?’
    • Or it could be hypothetical, what would you do scenarios, like: ‘Say you were born in Eastern Kentucky into a family that was poor and undereducated, how would you find a way out of that cycle?’ or ‘What if you had grown up in the US, only spoke English, but were not yet granted citizenship. What if getting citizenship would place your family at risk of going to jail or deportation? What if you were deported to Mexico when all you knew was life in the US?
  2. Oh look, I just happened across an article.Tom Ewell, Marilyn Monroe, "The Seven Year Itch," 1955
    • This is a bit different, but in the same vein.
    • If you have an article, book, or new information that maybe changed your own perspective or widened your point of view, bring it up in conversation. ‘I came across an interesting idea/article/documentary/ etc. today…”
    • Summarize the news without opinion but then ask questions about what it may mean, what its implications are, and what your audience thinks of the info.
    • Whoever you are persuading must experience the information and the thought processes that go along with it themselves.
    • ‘Look at this leadership model based on quantum physics… What do you think of it? How do you think we could apply it to our organization?’
  3. Present the dilemma and the information, leave the solution.
    • There is rarely one solution to a problem, but sometimes there is an option that fits best with multiple problems.
    • Present the dilemmas that lead to a solution your audience may not have previously thought of or agreed with.
    • The clip below is one of my favorite examples of this (in film). Toula’s father does not believe in her working outside of the family’s restaurant.  However, knowing him well, Toula’s mother and aunt stage a conversation that allows him to think of Toula working outside the restaurant as a solution that he came to on his own.
    • Main point, he connects the dots himself, he argues the point that disagrees with his previous beliefs.

Tact is the name of the game here.  Keeping in line with that aim, there are some rules of the game that are necessary for this to be a fair and useful practice.

  • Listen, remember: this is their thought process- not yours.
  • Continue the dialogue with follow up questions.
  • Stay neutral, don’t suggest your solutions or force your ideas.
  • Don’t make your audience feel like they lose if they change there mind.