Too often, people become intractable with their opinions and refuse to budge, as if changing their minds on an issue makes them weak and immature. But the ability to decide that you once felt one way about something and now you feel differently is mature and thoughtful.
No matter how stubborn you are, there will be times when you let yourself be influenced and times when you want to influence someone else.
A study from Cornell University says: «Changing someone’s opinion is possibly one of the most significant challenges of social interaction. The underlying process is difficult to study; it is difficult to know how someone’s opinions are formed and if they change and how they change.
So the researchers looked at nearly two years of posts on ChangeMyView, a forum on Reddit where posters post an argument and then invite people to argue against it.
Topics cover everything from «Big business is good» to «Near-death experiences are good evidence of an afterlife.» Commenters are required to explain their reasoning in detail, and it also requests that respondents inform others when their point of view has been changed and explain what changed it.
By analyzing these dialogues, the researchers were able to study exactly what persuades people (outside of a lab). There are a few things to remember when trying to change someone’s mind.
Here’s how to change someone’s mind quickly.
1. First, find out if the person is open to other ideas.
The study’s researchers noted that the language a person uses to express their original opinion can reveal whether or not their opinion is shifting.
The researchers found that first-person pronouns like «I» indicate whether an opinion is malleable, but first-person plural pronouns like «we» suggest the opposite.
Adjustable opinions were expressed more positively by using words like «help» and «please,» as well as more adjectives and adverbs.
2. It is a numbers game.
The study found that the more people tried to persuade the original poster to change their mind, the greater the likelihood that the person would actually change their mind. I guess there’s power in numbers.
3. Timing is everything.
If you’re one of the first people to reply to a post, you’re more likely to win over the person who posted the original post than later responders.
4. Always use calm language.
Yes, speaking calmly can be boring, but calm language is also perceived in another way. It is about avoiding words that excite us and make us nervous.
Boring, less incendiary language can make people side with you.
5. Use specific examples to get your point across.
As humans, we like concrete and simple material that we can easily process.
Definite articles such as «the» instead of «a» and phrases such as «for example» are found in winning arguments. Also, linking to supporting material can really help win someone over to your side.
6. Do not quote the person for himself.
When trying to change a person’s mind, it can be tempting to do this.
But the study found that directly quoting the person whose mind you’re trying to change can backfire. That’s because it can feel like you’re criticizing them, rather than trying to influence them.
7. Limit the number of exchanges.
The study also found that while an argument may involve multiple back and forth, this may not work in your favor.
In fact, too many back-and-forth comments (more than three or four) between the original poster and the challenger don’t change the person’s mind.
Convincing someone to change their mind is no easy task, and even with these clues it can sometimes be impossible. But if you substantiate your claims and approach the situation in a civil manner, you can be successful.