Crippled CEO Blog #133:
Hi. I’m Eric. And I’m addicted to debates.
I’m currently in remission. I used to argue and debate with people constantly. I’m doing a lot better.
The main reason is because I learned something through my years of arguing with people.
It is impossible to change someone’s mind in an argument or debate.
It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how right you are, or how obvious it seems to you, if you’re in an argument with somebody, it is literally impossible to get them to change their mind.
Because once it has become an argument or a debate, once the goal is to win and avoid losing, it is now also a competition — and nobody wants to lose a competition. No one wants to be a loser.
Also, there’s this proven psychological phenomenon called the backfire effect. When you argue with somebody, you make their brain come up with new reasons why they are correct, and the end result is that they now believe whatever it was you were trying to talk them out of even harder.
The end result of all of this? You can’t win an argument — not if winning means changing somebody’s mind.
So, how do we persuade people to change their mind?
In my experience, there are three tools that can help.
Before we get to those tools, it is important that the conversation is in a place where you can use them. Each one requires that everybody is happy and getting along, though. If you slide into debate mode, it’s over. Give up for now. Decide to try again later.
There are a couple tactics that I learned from the book on negotiating, “Never Split the Difference”, that work well to keep things from becoming an argument.
The first is mirroring. It feels silly doing it, but I promise that people don’t notice, and it works oddly well. Mirroring is simply repeating back the last few words that somebody said and posing them as a question. You’re not calling them wrong. You’re not changing their mind. You’re just repeating back what they say.
“Tiger Woods is the most dominant athlete in history of all sports.”
“Of all sports?”
The second tactic is labeling.
Labeling is summarizing what you think the other person believes and feels as honestly and accurately as possible — in a way that they will agree with. Labeling is NOT twisting their position into a straw man that you can tear down.
“It seems like you are saying that Tiger Woods won more championships by a larger margin than any other athlete in history.”
With mirroring and labeling, you can keep the conversation going without it becoming a debate. Because remember, once it becomes a debate, that’s game over. That means you have to stop trying.
So, now that you’re in a place that’s not an argument or a debate, here are the three tools I found that work best for actually changing people’s minds.
The first is humor. If you can get somebody to laugh at their own belief, you’re winning. Comedians do a great job of making us think differently about a topic by conveying it in a humorous fashion. Comedy works, but this is probably the hardest of the three.
Second: tell a story. Stories are excellent ways of teaching and persuading. Stories take ideas out of the realm of fact and they bring them to life. Also, stories aren’t arguments or debates. You’re just telling a story, either from your own life, or somebody else’s.
Third: demonstrate. And I don’t mean demonstrate with facts and figures. Get your hands involved. Use pencil and paper and sketch out what you mean. Get in the car and go drive to an example of what you’re saying. Run through an example and let them see it for themselves.
Those are the three methods that I’ve found work best for persuading somebody to change their mind. Typically, just choosing one that best fits the scenario you are in is plenty, but if you can incorporate two or even all three, all the better.
And please, stop debating with people. You’ll never win. I was the worst of anybody, and it cost me a lot. If I can stop, I know you can, too.
(Do you know who doesn’t need any persuading? Your mom. Your mom also gets a text from me every Sunday with a link to the latest blog post. Send a text to 561-726-1567 with the word CRIP as the message to get a link to the blog as soon as it’s up.)