Timing is crucial.
There's an old expression that says, "It's a woman's prerogative to change her mind." I think it was used in a slightly derogatory way, as if all women are flighty and indecisive, but the ability to change one's mind is a positive trait.
Too often, people get intractable about their opinions and refuse to budge, like changing their mind about an issue makes them weak and immature. In my opinion, the ability to decide that while you once felt one way about something, and now feel differently, is mature and thoughtful.
No matter how stubborn you are, there are going to be times when you'll be swayed, and other times where you'll want to influence someone else.
A new study from Cornell University says, "Changing someone's opinion is arguably one of the most important challenges of social interaction. The underlying process proves difficult to study; it's hard to know how someone's opinions are formed and whether and how someone's views shift."
So the researchers looked at almost two years of postings on ChangeMyView, a forum on Reddit where posters post an argument and then invite people to reason against them.
The topics cover everything from "Big business is good" to "Near-death Experiences are pretty good evidence of an afterlife." Commenters are required to explain their reasoning at length, and it also requests that responders let others know when their view has been changed and explain what changed it.
By analyzing these dialogues, the researchers were able to study exactly what persuades people (outside a laboratory). Here are five things to remember when trying to change someone's mind:
1. Discover first if the person is open to other ideas.
The study researchers noted that the language a person uses to express their original opinion can reveal if their opinion is changeable or not. The researchers found that first person pronouns like "I" indicate if an opinion is malleable, but first person plural pronouns like "we" suggest the opposite. Adjustable views were expressed more positively using words like "help" and "please," as well as more adjectives and adverbs.
2. It's a numbers game.
The more people that tried to persuade the original poster to change their opinion, the greater the likelihood of the person actually changing it.
3. Timing is everything.
If you're one of the first people to respond to a post, you're more likely to persuade the original poster than those who respond later. In addition, too much back and forth comments between the original poster and the challenger doesn't change the person's mind.
4. Always use calm language.
Yes, speaking calmly can be boring, but calm language is perceived differently. It's all about avoiding words that excite us and get us all worked up. Duller, less incendiary language can lull people right over to your side.
5. Using specific examples.
As humans, we like concrete simple material that we can easily process. Definite articles such as, "the" rather than "a," and phrases like "for example," "for instance," and "e.g." are found in winning arguments. Also, linking to supporting material can really help to sway someone to your side.
Convincing someone to change their mind is no easy task, and even with these hints can sometimes be impossible.