For as long as I’ve been in the business of public relations, the Holy Grail of communication is being able to change someone’s mind. To persuade that person.
To be sure, there are no full-proof techniques or magic tricks, but it is possible. As you might suspect, there are a couple of foundational ingredients you need before you can do so. The first is trust.
The person or group to which you are trying to persuade must trust you if they are going to make themselves vulnerable enough to change their perspective or opinion. They may understand this consciously, or it may just be assumed.
But it’s not just trust. After all, you trust your mother and father, your husband or wife, but they’re not always the ones to change your perspective, are they?
There is another foundational ingredient, which is emotion.
Keith Bellizzi, a professor of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Connecticut, said in an article he wrote for The Conversation, “People form opinions based on emotions, such as fear, contempt and anger, rather than relying on facts. New facts often do not change people’s minds.”
If you need any evidence of this, notice how often you pick up your own phone to tune into Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter or even LinkedIn. If you have a social media addiction, blame it on emotion. Because the vast majority of that content is designed to keep you online by triggering your own fears, contempt and anger.
Algorithms have figured out what bothers you, what concerns you, and they keep sending more of that your way. It’s your ‘custom feed.’ Your custom feed knows that showing you some information that works on you, while hiding other information that doesn’t. All the while, you are being persuaded.
So, what are those five ways to change someone’s mind?
Become one of them
People trust others in their own neighborhood, in their own gender or ethnic group, or from the same socio-economic backgrounds. They speak the same language and come from the same place, philosophically speaking. There’s an understanding.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew
This is an old saying that simply means, don’t try to do too much from the start. Work your way up to achieving your goal. So, if you’re trying to persuade someone, try to find common ground with them, and persuade them on little things that don’t raise their defenses.
One example of this in conversation would be: If ultimately you want to get them to give you a fair hearing on a new workplace policy, you might want to engage that person in a conversation about the little things in the workplace that can be fixed. And then ‘test’ some of those things on the person to see how receptive they are to change.
Be an expert
Know what you are talking about. Make sure that you keep your focus on subjects and matters where the other person recognizes that you do know something about the topic. Perhaps you’ve been trained on it, have experience with it, enough to give you credibility on the issue.
Appeal to the other person’s sense of fairness
Ask the person how fair the current situation is to a certain person or group of people affected. Just doing this opens the dialogue up to discussion of possible alternatives. Keep in mind, this has to be a dialogue, not a one-way lecture from you to the other person.
Once you notice that the other person may be coming around to your way of thinking, affirm that it’s OK. Let the person know you may have felt the same way at some point, but you changed your mind, too.
No matter what, it’s important to remember what not to do. Do not use this to manipulate or control other people. Most have a sense of unscrupulousness when they see it and they’ll never trust you.
You’ve got to make sure that when you are trying to persuade a person or a group, that you approach the discussion openly and in good faith. Don’t shrink from openly letting the other person know that yes, you would like him or her see the situation in a new way. Be transparent and honest.
In the end, the goal of persuasion in ethical communication is to help other people through productive dialogue.
What do you think? Let me know.