Can people change?
The short answer is yes; people can change. Well, some people change. But it takes a bit of finessing to persuade someone correctly. We can’t agree on everything, but if you are willing to look at another person’s behavior and adapt yours accordingly, you can learn how to convince someone to do something; just make sure you have positive intentions.
You can’t get someone to change their mind by attacking their beliefs, even if their views are the most preposterous, outrageous perspectives that you’ve encountered. That’s not how to be persuasive, and it wouldn’t be how to change your mind either. To change someone’s mind, you have to let them come to a new decision on their own…or at least make them think they did.
Let me explain.
How to Make Someone Do What You Want Without Them Knowing
“Let the force be with you.”
Magicians use this tactic all the time when performing card tricks. When a magician says pick a card, any card, what they really mean is pick the card I want you to pick. You may think that you’ve chosen this card on your own, but you’d be wrong. This is called a force.
Say there are two piles of cards lying face-down in front of you; one of those piles contains your card, and the other does not. The magician says, pick a pile, so you point to one. The magician already knows which pile your card is in. If you point to the pile that contains your card, the magician slides the other pile aside and splits the pile you chose into two more piles; then you choose again. It continues on like this until there are just two cards left; one of them is your card, and the other is not. Your last pick brings on the big reveal where presto, there’s your card!
Now, what if during this process you had chosen a pile that did not contain your card?
That’s easy; the magician simply slides the pile you chose aside and continues on with the trick.
The magician never stated what they would do with the pile you pointed to; they only said pick and then took a direct but deliberate action based on your choice.
The magician never said whether they would discard or keep the pile you chose; they just said pick; therefore, it looks like they are taking action based on your choice, but the control remains with them.
If you chose the pile that contained your card, great, they keep that one on the table and discard the other pile. If you chose the pile that did not contain your card, then they let you think that you made the decision to get rid of that pile instead.
Sounds kind of manipulative, doesn’t it?
While we don’t want to force our beliefs on someone, changing someone’s mind can be positive or even necessary. Offering a different perspective and getting someone to accept that new perspective can help them grow as an individual, a professional, or as a group or business.
And, what’s the number one way to begin the process of changing someone’s mind?
When someone feels heard, they get comfortable and begin to let their guard down. If you really listen to someone, this makes them feel good, and you start to build a rapport. Listening to someone is not only good for them but for you, too. If it’s a friend you’re speaking with, perhaps they will make points that you had not thought of. If it’s a customer, you have a chance at bettering your business based on the information they offer. An employee or coworker can also provide insight that you hadn’t considered.
However, if you are certain the person’s views on a particular topic are misguided and want to point them back in the right direction, let them state their case first. Don’t diminish or dismiss their views, but instead wait until they are finished and reiterate the information back to them in a detailed summary. This is so you can both ensure that the point was understood correctly.
Can You Find Something to Agree with?
A great way to butter someone up is to highlight points from their explanation that resonate with you or that you can even agree with. Try to say something like, I find your point on x interesting, or you made a good point with y, or I agree with z, but have you considered a, b or c? The person is more apt to accept an alternative perspective if you show them that you were able to take away something from their viewpoint, too.
In a workplace, constructive criticism or rather constructive feedback is much easier and will produce better results, including a higher productivity rate, if you start with a compliment first. When teaching how to give constructive criticism or positive criticism, some professionals swear by what is known as the feedback sandwich. Other experts argue against the feedback sandwich’s effectiveness, saying that it skirts around real issues with an indirect formula, wasting precious minutes that could be spent discussing improvements instead of needlessly sugarcoating. I can see both sides, and while every situation is different, I tend to advocate for the feedback sandwich in certain cases – why? Because most people love a compliment. However, your compliment needs to be sincere, or you must be really good at faking it; otherwise, people will see through it.
So what is the feedback sandwich, for goodness sake??!
The feedback sandwich was first discussed in the book The Physician as a Teacher by Thomas L. Schwenk and Neal Whitman. When talking with an employee or team of employees, you start with positive feedback, then offer constructive criticism by going over what changes need to be made, then end the conversation or meeting with another dose of positive feedback. For the last helping of positive feedback, you can reinforce what was stated initially, but I prefer a brand-new compliment. You can also discuss the positives that will come from making the changes in the constructive criticism portion or “meat” of your conversation.
Mind you, the same method of layering compliments could be applied to personal conversations, too.
After mulling over the views expressed by the person with whom you are debating, ask them questions about the topic; this further communicates to them that you are listening. Then, start to ask deeper questions that will get them to doubt their own beliefs.
Let’s discuss how.
Not many people are 100% on something if you dive deep enough. Plenty of books, blogs, and academic articles will reiterate what Peter Boghossian (Assistant Philosophy Professor at Portland State University) and writer James Lindsay said in their book How to Have Impossible Conversations, incorporate a scale into your questioning. Ask someone, on a scale of 1-10, how sure are you of this? Here’s a relevant one, someone you work with says that COVID-19 isn’t really happening. To which you can ask something like, on a scale of 1-10, how sure are you that the holocaust happened? A little dark, but stay with me. Most people will answer 10. You can then say, with that in mind, on a scale of 1-10, how sure are you that COVID-19 is a hoax? You will likely get a number below 10, and if this occurs, then you have created self-doubt, even if it’s just a smidge.
I’m actually not a huge fan of this, most people can see right through it, and the conversation can start getting heated real quick. You want to keep things as a friendly debate without escalating to a full-blown argument.
You can, however, use another form of less condescending discretization by asking regular questions that will get a person to question their own belief system.
The Know-it-All Effect
Another form of doing this is to expose a person’s “unread library.” When people are so sure they know something but are asked to explain it in great detail and can’t, this is called the unread library effect. It was based on a study conducted in 2001 where a group was asked to rate their knowledge of how a toilet functions. Everyone seemed pretty confident that they knew precisely how a toilet functioned until they were told to explain it in detail, then their confidence diminished. This gave way to another effect known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. The Dunning-Kruger effects basically shows that incompetent people are too incompetent to recognize…well…their own incompetence, which dumbfoundingly inflates their baseless assuredness. In 2002, psychologists Rozenblit and Kei coined the illusion of explanatory depth; in this, “Humans fail to understand the world around them and also fail to recognize this lack of understanding. The illusion of explanatory depth (IOED) exemplifies these failures: people believe they understand the world more deeply than they actually do and only realize that this belief is an illusion when they attempt to explain elements of the world.”
What’s a word for someone who won’t admit they are wrong? A know-it-all; that’s actually three words, but who’s counting? So when faced with know it alls, be it at work or in your personal life, ask them to explain their beliefs in great detail, and hopefully, they’ll begin to realize there is so much left to learn.
Act as if you are trying to learn more about a person’s perspective by asking them these questions, even if you know it to be false, but don’t be a jerk about it either. This can go a couple of ways; either you learn something from them that changes your views, or they learn that they don’t know as much as they thought. A third outcome is that this person will flat out deny all logic and reason, and in this case, there is not much else you can do. You may not be the one to change someone’s mind, it could take years of first-hand experiences to do so, or it may never happen at all.
Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds
Writer Eric Barker says that “the most stubbornly held beliefs often have nothing to do with the truth.” In other words, facts don’t change minds; this is not always the case, but it is something you must be prepared for. We are so attached to our beliefs that even cold hard facts can do little to change them, so Barker asks you to question how the beliefs of the person with whom you are debating contribute to their sense of personal identity and morality. For example, why does believing that the United States is the greatest country in the world make you an American? Would you be un-American without thinking that way? How does that way of thinking make you a good person? Would you be a bad person if you didn’t think that way? This line of questioning can be especially useful for thought-provoking discussions on politics, traditions, religion, economics, and social justice, to name a few, but be careful; these can all be touchy subjects. Many of these things also have no place in workplace conversations, so when in doubt, keep it professional!
Scenarios & Actions
Below are a few scenarios that you may be faced with at work and how to deal with them.
How to Change a Customer’s Mind
When speaking to a customer, regurgitating detailed company factoids that go against what they say rarely changes their mind. Instead, show them that while you and that customer may feel differently about a subject, you both want the same outcome.
Here’s one scenario:
Customer: My products never arrived; I am never shopping with your company again.
You: This is a busy time of year, and all shipping carriers are experiencing delays.
Customer: That’s not my fault, it’s yours!
Right now, it seems like it is neither your fault or the customer’s because you hand-delivered the package to FedEx on time for them to ship.
You: FedEx is your shipping carrier, and I can certainly check with them to see where your package is – one moment.
When you check with FedEx, you are told the package was delivered two days ago, but the address does not match up to the one the customer is providing. You switch over to your customer. DO NOT say that the package was already delivered; instead, ask them questions.
You: Did you set up the package to be delivered to your home or business?
Customer: My home.
While looking at their order, you notice that for their shipping address, they checked the box that says “Same as billing address.”
Ask them another question.
You: And for your shipping address, did you select the box that says “Same as billing?”
Customer: Yes, of course, I did!
Right now, you are looking at their billing address. Read it back to them in question form (like Jeopardy).
You: So your shipping and billing address are both 237 Argumentative Road, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico 87901?
Customer: No, I, aaaah; that’s old. I must have never updated the address on that card.
The customer came to the correct conclusion on their own. You never told them that they were wrong, even though you were pretty convinced that was the problem. Now you can offer whatever assistance is in your power to rectify the issue.
How to Instruct an Employee to Do Something They Don’t Agree with and Achieve Best Results
Show your employee that you both want the same outcome, but your way of thinking will provide the most direct route.
Here is one scenario:
You want an employee to provide analytics for their work to measure their progress.
Employee: What’s the point? This company is never happy with anything I do; all they care about is money. I do all these cool creative projects that people are engaging with, but no one cares.
You: I’m sorry you feel that way. Yes, you are right, the company’s bottom line is one of our top priorities, but so is the happiness of our employees. What do you think you can do differently?
You: Let me show you something. I ran the report of your most recent project, and it has generated more than $15K in sales this month. I showed this report to our founder, who was ecstatic! She said, keep those projects coming.
You: Yes. You see, without your analytics reports, it is hard for us to gauge how effective a project is. By the looks of just this one project, your work speaks for itself. However, for more data-based thinkers like me, I understand your work’s validity best when presented this way. All I want is for us to be aligned so we can both continue to do what we do best and increase our business’s growth.
It’s good to go over issues with your employees, but you also need to make them feel valued. If they feel valued, then they will be more open to improvements.
How to Use the Different Viewpoints of a Team to Create a Better Finished Product
Sometimes your team can have different perspectives on the same topic; these can mingle quite nicely. Not only do we often have different beliefs, but also different ways of thinking and working. Some people are visual learners; others are auditory learners, read and write learners, or kinesthetic learners (hands-on). Some people are optimists, pessimists, pragmatists, or dreamers. Others are creative thinkers, and some are data-based thinkers. You have your left-brain thinkers and your right-brain thinkers. Some people work well with others, and some work better individually. Some of your team members may be introverts, while others are extroverts. There are so many personality traits that separate each individual, but the great news is that there is a place for everyone; a good manager or business owner knows how to put each personality in their proper place to lead to success.
In a group setting, these polarized personality traits can actually build better ideas. The pragmatists and pessimists keep the optimists and dreamers in check, and the optimists and dreamers give the pessimists and pragmatists hope or courage for finding new fact-based solutions. A creative idea is just an idea, but a data-driven idea can go the distance. You also need outgoing people to sell these ideas because not every thinker works well in front of an audience. See what I’m saying? The point is, sometimes opposing views are necessary, and you just need to be sure they synch up.
How to Convince People in a Group
In a group setting, feelings can transfer quite quickly. The Stanford Prison Experiment was a social psychology experiment; half the students were chosen to be guards and the other inmates in a mock prison setting. Things got out of hand very quickly. Though some question the experiment’s validity, many underlying behavior patterns were still displayed, one of which was herd mentality.
Most of us can say that we have been both a follower and a leader. Think back to grade school; have you ever joined in on talking about someone negatively because the other group members were doing it? You didn’t want to be the odd one out because then you might be talked about, too. Perhaps, you felt bad about it afterward, and the next time the situation occurred, you stuck up for the person being talked about and actually changed the mind of a few group members right then and there.
In many cases, positivity is contagious; that’s why you’re told to surround yourself with positive people; a negative friend can make you feel worse, while a positive friend can inspire you to do better. Studies have shown that positivity transfers at a slightly higher rate than negativity, so the next time you have a group of people who disagree with your viewpoint, help them find the positive outcome within your idea.
If you can convince some group members to adopt your way of thinking, those members can persuade others, and as more and more are convinced, others will follow suit. It may not happen right away, but if the results of your suggestions continue to yield a positive outcome, you will continue to make believers out of naysayers.
How to Be an Agreeable Coworker Without Being a Doormat
Learn to say “no,” and say “thank you” instead of “I’m sorry.”
Show up to a meeting ten minutes late due to an unforeseen set of circumstances? “Thank you for waiting” will go over much better than “I’m sorry I’m late.” Constantly apologizing makes you appear weak; it admits fault even when it isn’t warranted, and it gets tiresome quickly. Constant “I’m sorrys” show a lack of confidence and can be highly self-deprecating; people gravitate towards those who are nobly self-assured, so adjust your vocabulary accordingly.
It is hard to say no when trying to be a good employee, but you have to prioritize; you can’t say yes to every little task that comes your way right away, or you would never get your most important tasks done.
Elon Musk once told his employees to leave meetings if they realized they were no longer providing value. How many times have you sat through a meeting that no longer pertained to you? Think about any given conversation; wouldn’t it be great if you could politely step away when it stopped being productive? For many of us, our professional independence has elevated since the coronavirus pandemic started; this is among a small list of positives, but take the win. Next time you feel that a task or conversation is doing a disservice to your productivity, politely excuse yourself if you can, and see if things improve.
Lastly, you’re allowed to have opinions; a yes-man or yes-woman will not usually be the one to initiate groundbreaking changes. Have the courage to offer your views, but back them up with facts and figures; provide as much data as possible to validate your thoughts.
How to Make a Sale
Prospects may argue the necessity of your products and services. By asking them questions about their wants and needs, you can learn how to cater to them.
Know your customer base; create detailed customer personas with as many demographics as possible (age range, race, gender, family size, income, religion, political affiliations, geographic location, profession, what they lack professionally or personally, etc.). Know as much as you can about the prospect before speaking to them, then learn more by asking them additional questions. If you can make them realize how your product or service will cater to a direct want or need, then you have a better chance at making the sale.
You may receive pushback from a prospect but think of the encounter like a scene in a good movie. A straight-to-video D- film is loaded with exposition. What’s exposition? Exposition is over-explaining something through forced or unnatural dialogue. If a character in a movie has to explain the twist exhaustively, then the twist didn’t do its job.
How did you know she was the killer?
Well, we learned that she was inhabited by the alien queen whose planet you obliterated at the start of our intergalactic journey; upon discovering that her species is allergic to water, we splashed a glass on her at dinner, making it look like an accident, before escaping out the back through the kitchen.
This shouldn’t have to be explained; the audience should have already understood it. A good film doesn’t tell the audience; it shows them and lets them come to the conclusions on their own. Do the same with your prospects. Don’t tell your potential customers that they need your business – show them – and let them realize that they can’t live without you.
Change of Heart. Change of Mind. Bringing It All Together.
We hope that this blog sheds some light on how to get someone to see and even accept your point of view. How people change is contingent upon several factors, and many of the exercises suggested in this article can be fine-tuned by developing your emotional intelligence and interpersonal relationship skills. For more on that subject, check out our sister blog and read, How to Form Deeper Emotional Connections Professionally and Personally.
At CardsDirect, we believe that a stronger connection starts with the right tools; check out some of our ideas here.