How to really change someone’s mind

CHEAPRaise your hand if you have recently been involved in an insulting argument that began as an attempt at a civil discussion about some hot button issue. Many of us have, and with the high-stakes elections underway, The lecture was on fire will probably only strengthen.

While it can be gratifying in the moment, calling someone a cry – insert your favorite insulting word here – will never help them get your point across. Instead, experts in persuasive communication say it’s important to focus on curiosity and compassion, and make it clear that you don’t think of the person you’re talking to as an enemy — or despise them.

David Campt, founder of Dialogue company, which helps train people to approach difficult conversations more effectively. “Especially now, with more polarization, it is important that we learn how to have a good conversation across different points of view.”

Every year, Kurt Gray asks students in her class if they have had a conversation that changed their mind about topics like abortion or immigration. “The rate is not zero, but it’s not high either,” said Gray, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Deepest Belief Lab and Science Center for Ethical Understanding. “It can happen, but it’s not easy and it’s infrequent.”

However, certain strategies can make the effort more effective. Here, experts share research-backed strategies that can help you really change someone’s mind.


Entering the conversation with the right mindset is key – and that means trying to be calm, collected, and open to learning. If you get agitated and know you might be having a hard time, revisit the problem another time, Campt advises.

He also suggests revealing any worries or hurts to your interlocutor. “Our tendency is to want to hide it, but assuming you’re nervous is really helpful, because it tends to soften people’s hearts.”

Research by Gray and others, published in Natural human behavior in September, provides additional helpful guidance: Don’t assume the person you’re talking to hates you, even if you have different political views. Republicans and Democrats both overestimate the extent to which the other party loses humanity by as much as 300%, according to the study. “If you start a conversation thinking this person hates you and doesn’t want to listen, that’s going to be a bad conversation,” says Gray. “Research shows that correcting a misconception — that the other side doesn’t hate your side as much as you think — is a really effective way to reduce partisan animosity.”

Practice empathy

David McRaney, author of the book 2022 says: How Thoughts Changed: The Surprising Science of Beliefs, Opinions, and Persuasion and science podcast host You are not so smart.

“If you say they have to be embarrassed, or that they are stupid or gullible, they will turn against you in a way that ruins their ability to move on to a conversation that will actually change their mind in some way. or ask them to reevaluate the problem,” he said.

Read more: The art of persuasion in an age of polarization

Research published year Psychological Science In October, find that empathizing with those with whom you disagree can make your political arguments more persuasive. Using phrases like “I agree,” “we all want to,” and “I understand that” can help show empathy.

If your pool of empathy is running low, Campt suggests three ways to help fill it: First, picture the person you were talking to when they were young. Then, zoom in on a positive moment you had with them, or think of some aspirations they have that you support. These exercises, he says, can help us “open our hearts” and foster the best possible environment for a difficult conversation.

Find some common ground

If you’re trying to change someone’s mind, the conversation can’t just be about fixing mistakes: It should be about connecting, Campt says. He recommends opening the conversation by finding something you can both agree on.

Read more: It’s time for white people to have heated conversations with white people’s friends and relatives

For example, if someone declares that protests against the police need to be stopped, you can agree that good policemen certainly exist. Campt, diversity, inclusion and equity mentor and creator of the White Ally Toolkit, an anti-racism workbook. He thinks of strategy like ABC: agree before challenge. It can help get people into an open mind before you invite them to the new mindset.

Tell stories, not just facts

Exploiting the truth about the person you’re talking to will never work, Gray insisted. Sharing personal experiences and stories is more likely to resonate.

Research published in 2016 support that view: Trans-rights campaigners engage in-depth reflection with voters on transphobia, their experiences and perspectives, and these conversations about baseline significantly reduced transphobia over the next three months, as measured by follow-up surveys. “Sharing and connecting on a human level is more effective than arguing,” says Gray. Usually, people “think the best thing to do is argue as hard as possible,” but that’s not the case.

That’s why it can be helpful to question a person’s experiences, rather than their beliefs, to inform their views — and avoid attacking them, says Campt. He says you’re talking to someone who doesn’t vote and you want them to change their mind. He or she may say that no politician is really listening; Instead of telling them it’s not true, share a story about a time in your life when you felt like the politicians weren’t hearing you. This will help you and your interlocutor feel like you’re on the same side. Then tell them another story: an experience that helped prove to you that politicians are in fact good listeners — and you know how and why that matters. Sharing stories helps build trust and encourage everyone to be openwhile broadening the perspective, Campt said.

Open the door to introspection

Many people feel strongly about divisive issues but never stop to list specific reasons why, says McRaney. There are ways to “keep a space for this person to really develop their first opinion on the matter,” he added.

For example, you might start by asking someone: On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you feel about gun control? Let’s say the person answered 7. Why not 6 or 10? Usually, when you ask that follow-up question, they will stop and say, “Well…” before offering an explanation—perhaps the first sentence they make clear, even to themselves. At that point, the person you’re talking to may discover their opinions aren’t as strong as they thought, and there’s room for flexibility.

“What you want to do is create a space where you come together, and you say, ‘I think you’re a rational, rational person,’ says McRaney. “’I think we can both agree on many of the same issues in this world. I’m wondering why on this particular matter we don’t agree, and I’d love your permission to investigate it together. ‘”

Know when to take a break

Inevitably, some conversations will turn into arguments. If the person you’re talking to insults you, Campt recommends saying, “I want to go back right before you said X,” and rewind the conversation.

Take a break as well. If things start to escalate, stay away under the pretext of going to the bathroom, Campt suggests, and take a moment to calm down before deciding whether and how to proceed. .

If you’re online, set boundaries

To prove that effective conversations on social networks are rare, look no further than protesting Twitter threads and lengthy, belligerent comments on Facebook. Online, you’re often anonymous, you can’t see other people’s faces, and it’s easy to misinterpret their words and intentions, Gray said.

But Dr. Karin Tamerius, a psychiatrist, website founder Smart politics—Which teaches people how to communicate more effectively and persuasively — considers online platforms to be one of the most effective places for political discourse.

She recommends following these four steps:

first. Personalize yourself. Social media users often forget that they are talking to real people, not robots without emotions. When she enters a new conversation, Tamerius always introduces herself, tells others her name, and is nice to meet them. “In 90% of cases, it is enough for them to change their orientation immediately,” she says. “It puts them in a different scenario.”

2. Set boundaries. Making a request like this, Tamerius suggests: “I’d love to talk to you, but we can’t accommodate if you’re calling my name or questioning my motives. Can we agree to treat each other with respect and try to understand each other’s point of view? “She said that most of the time, everyone agrees.

3. If those boundaries are crossed, provide a reminder. Someone can get so caught up in replies that they forget to follow the rules that govern the conversation. In that case, call them out and give them one more chance.

4. If the behavior is still problematic, block or mute it. Don’t feel bad about cutting off contact, especially if the conversation turns abusive. “I let them know what I was doing and why I was doing it,” Tamerius said. “And then I said to them, ‘If at some point you’re willing to participate more effectively, you’re welcome back.’ I left the door open, so they know it’s not personal.”

Keep a certain degree of separation from the results

Have you ever tried to catch a butterfly in your hand? What happens, says Campt, is “you often push the butterfly away by the wind you make to reach it”.

The same risks surround pushing your chat partner too hard. Instead, keep an interval that matches the results. Your mental and emotional health shouldn’t depend on the other person changing their mind on an issue.

It can help, adds Campt, to remember that this is the first attempt, not the only opportunity — or the last — that you’ll have to talk to. “You’re trying to learn and understand,” he says, gathering information that you’ll use in the next and subsequent conversation.

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