There are times when you want other people to act or think a certain way – namely, the way you think and act. There’s an art to persuasion that begins with a few simple rules. The first comes from Benjamin Franklin: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” This would seem like a basic truth, but it gets ignored all the time. Think back on the times when someone persuaded you to go along with something that you didn’t really believe in. Years can pass, and still you will be skeptical or resentful about being persuaded against your will.

There is really only one secret to changing other people’s minds, but it’s a big one: Follow practical psychology. If you heed this advice, you will get better at persuading and influencing people over the years. On the other hand, if you ignore or sidestep psychology, you will find yourself with less and less influence as time passes. Here are five ways to put practical psychology to work that you may have overlooked or not known about. Each way comes with a tactic you definitely shouldn’t try, since it’s proven not to work.

1. Be sincere and truthful. Don’t be manipulative.

2. Appeal to what someone else already believes. Don’t impose your own belief system.

3. Be aware of the other person’s blind spots. Don’t assume they are open-minded.

4. In general, persuade through reason, not emotion. Don’t assume that emotions aren’t in play, however.

5. Make the other person feel right. Don’t make them feel wrong.

These are all effective ways to change someone else’s mind, but the tricky part is that if any one of them goes wrong, the others won’t be of much use. If you’re a woman applying for a job and the interviewer is dead set on hiring a man, nothing else will matter – blind spots, prejudice, and ingrained biases are among the hardest things to overcome. On the other hand, a really skillful use of practical psychology might get you the job, especially if you can make him feel right about his decision.

Let’s consider each of the five points a bit further.

1. Be sincere and truthful. Don’t be manipulative.

You can’t sell other people on something you don’t actually believe in. That’s why infomercials on late-night television do everything they can to persuade you of their honesty. Testimonials, authority figures, before and after photos, and research data are called upon to make the viewer believe that they aren’t simply watching a commercial, even though they are. We shut out commercials instinctively because we know from experience that they are manipulative and insincere. We also put up our guard when a salesman says, “I really believe in this product.” The upshot is that you shouldn’t try to be a master manipulator. It only works on weak-willed people, and in the end they are fickle allies. Rely on your listener’s natural ability to detect sincerity.

2. Appeal to what someone else already believes. Don’t impose your own belief system.

People identify with their beliefs. If you’ve ever slammed the door when someone tries to offer you a religious pamphlet, or had the door slammed in your face when you went canvassing for a political party, the truth of this point will be obvious. In a different world beliefs would be flexible and open to change, but that world isn’t at hand. So you need to know what someone else really, truly believes. With that knowledge at hand, you can align yourself with their beliefs. Without that knowledge, you are throwing darts at a brick wall. If you try instead to impose your own beliefs, the other person will feel that you are making him wrong, and immediate shutdown follows.

3. Be aware of the other person’s blind spots. Don’t assume they are open-minded.

A blind spot is a fixed opinion that is so strong, the person shuts out any input to the contrary. It’s the supreme example of rigid thinking. If you are self-aware, you know that you have your own blind spots – there are certain things you simply can’t stand or that bring out your most stubborn reactions. There are also positive blind spots, as when a mother feels that her beloved child can do no wrong. No one announces their blind spots, so you have to feel them out. Is the other person balking, contradicting you, trying to change the subject, crossing his arms over his chest? Look for sure signs of resistance, and you will generally be hitting close to another person’s blind spots. It seems discouraging that almost no one has an open mind, but it’s a fact of practical psychology that must be considered. Your task is to avoid sensitive topics and to appeal to the part of your listener that wants to agree with you.

4. In general, persuade through reason, not emotion. Don’t assume that emotions aren’t in play, however.

One of the most confusing aspects of persuasion has to do with being reasonable. Everyone thinks they are, and decision-making is supposed to be rational. Yet psychological research has shown time and again that emotions cannot be separated from the choices we make. Therefore, should you appeal to someone else’s emotions? Unless you have a personal relationship, the answer is generally no. You risk insulting their intelligence or coming off as being manipulative. To be persuasive, you must argue rationally while always monitoring the emotional atmosphere. (It’s worth noting too that competitive personalities regard a show of emotion as a sign of weakness – with them, you must muster all the rational reasons you can.) Some people can be persuaded by a show of emotion, but if you look a bit deeper, they either wanted to be persuaded or agreed with you in the first place – think of the cheers at political rallies for a speech that would be greeted coldly if it was delivered to the other political party.

5. Make the other person feel right. Don’t make them feel wrong.

This point might win the prize for what gets ignored most often. Anytime you bully somebody, lord it over them, use your position of authority, or act superior, you are making that person feel wrong. We all feel wrong when we are judged against. We feel right when we are accepted, understood, appreciated, and approved of. (I’ve met at least one hugely successful executive who built his entire career on making other people feel that they were the most important person in the room.) If you make someone else feel accepted, you have established a genuine bond, at which point they will lower their defenses. If you push someone away instead by making them feel wrong, their defenses will turn twice as strong.
These five points are really just elaborations on Ben Franklin’s aphorism, but they are worth learning and testing out if you want to be successful at getting others to change their minds.

Social Networks and The Global Brain | The RABBIT HOLE with Deepak Chopra

Courtesy of YouTube/The Chopra Well

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