Changing minds is the hardest thing
Getting things done almost always means changing minds. Whether we are attempting to change the mind of a nation, of our spouse or just our own, such change requires a drastic re-organization of the other's deepest convictions, beliefs and values. We have to be able to create a shift in that person's mental representations, that is to say in the particular ways they perceive, code, retain and access information.
As any politician, therapist or advertising guru is paid to know, minds are exceedingly hard to change, and sometimes just impossible to.
Why is so damn hard to change minds?
Simply because we all tend to become set in certain ways. Even more so over time.
The more you believe in certain things, the more this shapes your neuronal pathways. The more emotionally invested you become – think personal values for example – the less you will be able to change a motivation or a behaviour. The more people witnessed your commitment to an idea, the more difficult it will be for you to repudiate it.
So, what does it take to change a perspective?
Drawing on decades of research, Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner explains that the art of persuasion comes down to efficient communication.
Throughout Changing Minds, he describes seven levers - the "7R" - that can be used by anyone to successfully change a mind:
- Reason by way of the use of logical arguments.
- Research, in order to collect relevant facts.
- Resonance, to appeal to the feeling part of the human personality. Does a proposal feel right? Some people prefer it to a reasoned and researched position.
- Re-description can be profoundly effective. Matters are often expressed in the negative. When changed into a positive form of expression, they convey a different, more attractive meaning.
- Rewards. A financial reward may tip the balance.
- Real-world events can change one's outlook.
- Understand and overcome resistances.
Changing minds isn't about a sudden epiphany. Instead, we change our minds gradually, in identifiable ways that can be actively and powerfully influenced.