Have you ever needed to know how to change someone’s mind? Did you ever see a great opportunity (or problem) for your company-- and your boss or coworkers didn’t see it at all?
Or you might be working on a critical danger like climate change that can only be avoided if people unite to take action.
How can you convince people who disagree with you to change their perspective?
When there is a clear solution to a problem and no one feels threatened, persuasion can be simple.
But so often prior experiences and emotions complicate human responses. Even with convincing evidence, you may find it hard—or nearly impossible—to change someone’s mind.
It’s important to understand the obstacles to persuasion and to be realistic about your chances. It’s still worth trying when the issue is important! Here are the best ways to convince people (based on evidence of what has worked.)
An excellent Forbes article points out that “the single most effective persuasion technique is also the easiest to master.” What is it?
Really listen to people before you begin to argue or explain. Learn their fears and dreams and what they want to see happen.
Then you can show them (if it’s true) how the change you’re proposing can help create that future they want to see. You'll be prepared to explain how it can help avoid what they (& you) fear could happen.
Don’t talk statistics at this point—paint a vivid picture of the ways things could be better. Facts and evidence matter. So does their trust that you know what you’re talking about and that you’re being honest with them. But it’s when that picture reaches their heart that change can happen.
The essentials of that process of persuasion have been clear for thousands of years. (Aristotle pointed out the need for all three parts of the process):
1. logic and evidence that your idea will work,
2. giving people a reason to trust your motives and that you know what you’re talking about, &
3. appealing to emotion—the desires, hopes, and fears that are the strongest human motivations.
These ideas have been used effectively for centuries. However, neuroscientists have been learning more about why they work—the reasons our brain reacts as it does.
Their research suggests how to make your arguments even more effective. I found several fascinating articles, but I want to mention two on ‘framing’ in particular. “Frames” are mental categories our brains use to sort and make sense of our experiences.
A (long) article by Vox again emphasizes the importance of listening to the values of the “other” side. Using the arguments that convince us is rarely effective in convincing those who don’t already share our beliefs. Instead, we need to consider what matters to them. Then we can “frame” our arguments based on their perspective and values.
Vox discusses the results of a technique called “deep canvassing." It involves talking little but asking open-ended questions, then more questions. “In talking about their own lives, the voters engage in what psychologists call ‘active processing.’ The idea is that people learn lessons more durably when they come to the conclusion themselves…”
A Fast Company article explains the neuroscience of framing in detail. It gives some great examples of persuading people at work by reframing an argument to show how it helps reach their goals.
Start by understanding their concerns, then show your proposal meets them. “The point is to influence them by finding enough common ground to win them to your side…”
Think of the power of the words in well-known speeches like those of Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr., and others. They changed history with their words. Steve Jobs helped shape the thinking of a generation.
Choosing the best word for your purpose can make a significant difference in the way people respond to your suggestions. Check out the discussion of connotations on Why the Right Word Matters.
There are a few 'power words' that are crucial for arguments, from persuading a colleague to convincing a client of the value of your service. They can persuade a family member to accept a friend or tolerate a decision you have made.
You probably know many or most of these words already, but you may not remember to use them when you speak.
I’ve made a workbook with examples of common English phrases to persuade a coworker, boss, or client to consider your idea.
It also includes ways to argue against an idea you think would be harmful and ways to ask the opinions of others.
Many of the examples are incomplete 'sentence starters.' To get the most value from this workbook, copy the ones you might need and complete the sentences.
Then practice using them in a conversation with a friend-- or even by yourself.
After the examples there are matching exercises (to practice meanings).
Then there is a list of about 100 important word families (often a verb and related noun and adjectives) to use in these discussions.
At the end of the workbook are links to videos to help you pronounce English vowels and some of the more difficult words.
If you’re interested in the workbook, complete the form below so I can send it to your email address. As I mentioned, I will not share your name or email address with anyone, and you can unsubscribe at any time.