What It Takes to Change Hearts and Minds

To get someone’s support, you need more than just facts.


Published:

Some years ago, the communications psychologist John Marshall Roberts said at a talk I attended that there are three ways of converting people to a cause: by threat of force, by intellectual argument, and by inspiration.

The most effective of these methods, Roberts said, is aligning communication about your cause with the most deeply-held values and aspirations of your friends, relatives, neighbors, and fellow citizens. To get people’s total, lasting, and unwavering support, in other words, we should try neither to cajole them judgmentally nor convince them forcefully. We should inspire them toward a vision that they—not we—can really care about.

Which points to the potential problem of blindly using facts and science—be it climate science or demographic science—to “prove” the righteousness of our causes. Research shows that people tend to embrace data that support their life views and reject data that refute them. Whether we like this or not, it is a truth about how humans evaluate and make decisions. Having the “facts on our side” to make an argument more forcefully may not help if those facts and arguments refute someone’s view of life and the values that are precious to them.

The communication challenge, then, is to use our facts and science to skillfully and compellingly connect our causes not to what we think our friends, relatives, and fellow citizens should care about, but what they already do care about.

During the Vietnam War, a dairy farmer told a friend of mine the story of how he got recruited into the anti-war movement. The farmer happened to sit on a plane next to an anti-war activist. They got talking, and the activist said that he was campaigning against the U.S. use of fire-bombing.

The cow farmer said, “I know it’s awful, but we surely wouldn’t use that weapon if we didn’t need it to win the war.” The activist told him that crops were being burned and villagers were starving. The dairy farmer felt sympathetic but said the weapons might ultimately bring a faster end to the war. The activist mentioned children getting burned, forests turned to cinder. The farmer felt awful about the suffering, but his view remained unchanged. Finally, in frustration, the activist said, “Even the cattle are dying!” The dairy farmer said, “Wait! What?! They are killing the cows?!”

We may think the cow farmer should have cared about the crops, villagers, children, and forests. Yet trying to force more information—science and data—about them down his throat might have risked alienating him. Instead, finding his true soft spot—the cows—and being willing to enter into his life view was what eventually recruited him into the anti-war movement.

In another example, when activists with the California-based Leadership Lab knock on voters’ doors in its efforts to defeat anti-LGBTQ prejudice, they don’t start by talking about homophobia—they start by asking what personal experience of prejudice and bigotry the voter has had. Then, Leadership Lab volunteers tell a story of an LGBTQ person experiencing homophobia. They ask a question: “Do you see a connection between the prejudice you experienced and homophobia?” Recognizing that prejudice is the same wherever it is found, many voters are inspired to combat it.

In converting friends and fellow citizens to our causes, we should not blindly attempt to use facts and science to bolster the arguments and stories that appeal to our own values and experiences. Instead, we are challenged to listen to and understand the people we are trying to convince. Then, we can marshal the facts and figures that prove that our cause can help support their values.

In the case of renewable energy, for example, our friends may care more about national security than climate change. We can tell them about the security advantages of generating energy at home; trying to force them to believe in climate change by explaining the scientific details of the greenhouse effect, on the other hand, may not help. The point is to begin by asking questions in order to understand the values we need to appeal to, and then to use our facts to build a story that inspires the people we are talking to—rather than trying to force our own inspirations on them.

Facts and figures are wonderful tools, but they are not a communications strategy. Let’s not let our convictions blind us to the fact that other people have theirs. We need to hear our audiences’ stories and then retell ours in a way that mirrors their challenges and aspirations. We need to be empathetic and know that our stories are their stories. And that the challenges we face in being human are one.

Colin Beaven (aka No Impact Man) wrote this article for Why Science Can’t Be Silent, the Spring 2017 issue of YES! Magazine. Colin helps people and organizations to live and operate in ways that have a meaningful impact on the world. His most recent book is How To Be Alive, and he blogs at ColinBeavan.com

This article was republished from YES! Magazine.

See also:
We Aren’t So Different—3 Steps To Overcome Hate And Fear
Be A RAKtivist And Help Change Your Community

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

January 23, 2018

A series of testing lunar aspects gives pause. Be open to changing your mind, revisiting and adjusting plans. The Aries Moon is at odds with Mercury and Pluto. A proverbial “sure thing” could suddenly become a liability. While tenacity is admirable in…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

January 2018

Note: Tickets must be purchased here: http://bit.ly/2j2U7C4 Do you desire more emotional and physical connection? Does fear of being rejected or looking foolish hold you back from initiating...

Cost: $127/person; $247/couple

Where:
Watertown Center for Healing Arts
22 Mount Auburn St
Watertown, MA  02472
View map »


Sponsor: Conscious Intimacy
Contact Name: Brynn Bishop
Website »

More information

A 3-week Course Taught by Melissa Fountain, CSYT Sundays: 10:30am–12:15pm January 21, 28 and Feb 11 Meditation is a sacred gift you give yourself, and brings new vitality and focus...

Cost: Early Bird Pricing (until Jan 20): $140 for all 3 sessions ($155 after Jan 20)

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
40 Lyman Street, Suite 108B
Westborough Shopping Center
Westborough, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: www.SOHUM.org
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

Are you curious about yoga but don't know where to begin? The Intro to Yoga Series is a great place to start your practice. This series will provide a safe, non-competitive and welcoming...

Cost: $90 for series

Where:
YogaLife Institute
6 Chestnut St, Suite A
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Telephone: 603-969-8968
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Qigong and tai chi are 2500+ year old healing arts originating in China. These moving meditations offer unique health benefits that western medicine is...

Cost: $11-$15 per class

Where:
Chelmsford Wellness Center
3 Littleton Road, 2nd Floor
Westford, MA  01886
View map »


Sponsor: Cultivating Qi
Telephone: 978-856-8118
Contact Name: Dave Crocker
Website »

More information

January 8 - February 12, 2018 Intuition + Energy Medicine + Energy Psychology = The REAP Healing Method This 6 week certification training course provides you with the understanding and the...

Cost: $695

Where:
Live Online
Comfort of Your Home
, MA
View map »


Sponsor: The REAP Healing Method
Telephone: 978-877-8651
Contact Name: Pamela Dussault
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

3 Hour Introduction Diet and exercise play a role in managing your weight, but; that isn’t the whole story.   80% of dieters weigh the same or more within three months of starting...

Cost: $49

Where:
The Center for Resilient Living Clearly Coworking
474 Grove St.
Worcester, MA  01605
View map »


Sponsor: The Center for Resilient Living and Adventure Boot Camp
Telephone: 508-963-4786
Contact Name: Ginny Wholley
Website »

More information

Experience the power of singing gospel music with more than 250 others as part of the Mystic Chorale, led by award-winning director and composer, Jonathan Singleton. Join Mystic as we prepare...

Cost: $105

Where:
First Parish Unitarian
630 Mass Ave.
Arlington , MA
View map »


Sponsor: The Mystic Chorale
Telephone: 781-738-1920
Contact Name: Jai Kaur Annamaria
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events

Qigong and tai chi are 2500+ year old healing arts originating in China. These moving meditations offer unique health benefits that western medicine is integrating into treatment plans. By...

Cost: $12-$17 per class

Where:
Dragonfly Wellness Ceneter
176 Jackson Road
Devens, MA  01434
View map »


Sponsor: Cultivating Qi
Telephone: 978-856-8118
Contact Name: Dave Crocker
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 26 - 28, 2017 Journey to the heart, a shamanic sound healing training level 1 Join David Kuhn shamanic sound healer for a transformational weekend. David will share the basics of...

Cost: $222

Where:
Sound
31 Hawleyville Road
Newtown, VT  06479
View map »


Sponsor: David Kuhn
Telephone: 802-579-5771
Contact Name: David Kuhn
Website »

More information

6 Week Series with Sherri Snyder-Roche Start your year with greater awareness. In Kundalini Yoga, we harness the mental, physical, and nervous energies of the body and put them under the...

Cost: $90

Where:
State of Grace Yoga and Wellness Center
104 East Hartford Ave.
Uxbridge, MA  01569
View map »


Telephone: 508-278-2818
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

With Rev. Rita Berkowitz Are you ready to become a professional medium and meet the criteria that would be required of you, ethically and practically? Are you ready to work with the public and...

Cost: $600 (Early Bird $550)

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

All are invited to the 2nd annual Lincoln, MA Holistic Wellness Fair on January 27. We are also seeking holistic practitioners from the locales of Lincoln, MA and surrounding towns, to participate...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bemis Hall
15 Bedford Rd
Lincoln, MA  01773
View map »


Sponsor: Lincoln Recreation
Telephone: 781-738-1920
Contact Name: Jai Kaur Annamaria

More information

Do you want to learn how to use the plants in your backyard to bring healing nourishment to your life? Is winter finding you hungry for wildflowers and tasty greens? If so, join Jenny Hauf,...

Cost: $15 for Trustees members and $25 for nonmembers

Where:
Francis William Bird Park
Polley Lane
East Walpole, MA  02032
View map »


Sponsor: The Trustees of Reservations
Telephone: 617-750-4329
Contact Name: Maura O’Gara
Website »

More information

Dates: Saturday, January 27 and Saturday, February 3. This two-day class is for those want to go deeper into their personal healing journey with the system of Reiki and who want to strengthen...

Cost: $275

Where:
Bancroft Doggone U
333 Shrewsbury Street
Worcester, MA  01604
View map »


Sponsor: Bancroft Doggone U
Telephone: 508-753-9757
Contact Name: Lisa Ruthig
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags