The Most Important Thing to Understand About Changing Other People’s Minds

 In Leadership

Lately, a lot of people have been asking, “How do I change someone’s mind?”

This question is often followed by an explanation that they are worried about someone else’s misjudgment or that they are trying to prevent the other person—or their organization—from veering off course.

If you’re trying to cause someone to make a modest shift in their thinking—to buy one brand instead of another or to sell a stock earlier (or later) than they planned—there are many proven techniques for doing so.

For example, you can apply logic, explaining the reasons they should change their mind, and bringing facts to light.

Or you can tell them a story that engages their emotions and brings a shift in perspective.

But the more extreme the shift you are trying to get someone to make, the wiser it would be to abandon the intention to “change someone else’s mind”.

Why? Because those words imply that you are right, and the other person is wrong.

It hardens your position just as you are trying to soften someone else’s.

Instead, try this two-step process.

First, invest time in understanding how you form beliefs and make decisions, because doing so will help you to understand how other people make decisions. (Hint: many of us don’t realize this, but many decisions are grounded in avoiding our fears… even when we aren’t even aware of these fears.)

Second, look for common ground, instead of a way to change the other person’s mind.

Right now, some of you are thinking, “Amanda, you don’t understand? This person is dangerously wrong.”

If so, please understand the high likelihood that the person you have in mind is thinking exactly the same thing about you.

Each of us is a complicated collection of our reactions to all the people, organizations, events, communities, rules, laws, societal norms, belief systems, economic conditions, friends and neighbors we have ever known.

It’s hard enough to know ourselves and why we do things, nevermind know that about someone else.

The greater the gap between two of you, the more you will benefit from being curious about why each of you feel the way you do and how you can discover more common ground.

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