• Joseph Ishaku

Here’s How to Change Someone’s Mind

Updated: Aug 24, 2020

Why should you care about changing people's minds?

Because as a leader or anyone working with someone, you sometimes need to make decisions that require you to go through complex relationships with colleagues, partners, and clients to get their buy-in or support.

Photo credit: Nadya Khoja via venngage.com 

The ideas shared here were gotten from Laura Huang’s research, in which 60 leaders were interviewed and observed as they tried to convince people to change their minds on a course of action that they initially disagreed with.

The 1st step in trying to change someone’s mind is to identify what is driving the person’s resistance. You can ask yourself “what aspect of my arguments got the most pushback or emotional reaction”. Our bias towards action often causes us to skip this step. Remember:

“Anything perceived has a cause. All conclusions have premises. All effects have causes. All actions have motives.” — Arthur Schopenhauer

The researchers realized that the most successful leaders in overcoming others’ skepticism were those who first diagnosed the root of the fundamental disagreement before trying to persuade.

Next, depending on the answer from the 1st step adopt one of the following targeted strategies:

1. The cognitive conversation: Use this for people that appear to remove emotions in their decision-making process and disagree with you majorly because of an objective reason.

You will need two things – sound arguments and good presentation. Use a logical framework and clear storyline to force the opposer to reassess their thinking.

Remember, the goal is to show that on a realistic and unbiased basis, the person’s initial stance on the issue isn’t as reasonable as your argument.

2. The champion conversation: Use this when your opposer isn’t easily persuaded by cognitive arguments, or when they harbor a grievance in your relationship with them.

Here, it is not about arguments but understanding their perspective and why they might feel personally upset. Try and develop a relationship with them to learn about what they value, as you also hint at the qualities you value. Gradually convert the person into someone who is your champion or advocate.

Be warned, you can’t rely on the relationship you engineered alone; your stance still needs to be logical.

3. The credible colleague approach: Use this when your opposer's personal beliefs make it seemingly impossible for them to accept your proposal, no matter what logical or emotional argument you provide.

Rather than trying to argue, bring in a credible colleague. Someone who is not only a champion of your position but also better suited to convince your opposer. This allows your opposer to evaluate your idea based on its objective merits, because it forces them to separate who you are from what your argument might be.

Note, however that a leader must be equally open to re-evaluating their stance in light of superior arguments. This does not intend to be a playbook on how to become manipulative. Moreover, good leaders thrive when they can get things done through others by effectively delegating.


Still curious? Read Laura’s HBR article and book Edge: Turning Adversity into Advantage

Author Credit: Joseph Ishaku


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