A respectful way to change someone's mind
we find ourselves wanting to persuade someone to change his mind or his behavior.
A manager may see a disaffected employee at work, a client may be reluctant to test a new service, a teenager may dig his heels in, or a friend is continuing down a path which may be harmful.
So what do we do? Typically we sit the person down and launch into the many “good” reasons why he or she has to change. Or worse, in a position of authority we simply order the person to do something.
We then find ourselves surprised that nothing happens; they “just don’t get it" despite our best efforts at pointing out the “obvious” reasons and benefits. Or they “don’t listen to what I say”.
Here is the golden rule:
Someone changes his mind and behavior only if he has some internal motivation to do so, and the desire to do so is based entirely on his own personal reasons.
Motivation is personal. No one will alter his behavior if he absolutely refuses, yet all of us most of the time have some personal reason or desire to take on a new direction, form a new habit or see things in a different light.
Is there a respectful and effective way to elicit a change of mind in someone? Yes there is. Here is a tested paradigm of five sequential questions you can use.
Why might you change? Note the operative word here is “might”. It is the free choice of whether one will change his or her mind. One of the most reliable results in the science of persuasion is that a person is more likely to take a new decision if given a free choice to do so. So, the exploration here is simply why might you want to change?
How ready are you to change on
a scale from 1 to 10? This
question probes the level of motivation a person has towards a change of mind.
The actual level, whether a 2 or an 8 is chosen, doesn’t matter. The idea with
this phrase is to pinpoint some degree of internal motivation.
Why didn’t you pick a lower
of asking why the level chosen is not higher, the question goes in the
counter-intuitive direction – why are you not less motivated. A question few people expect. The prod explores what internal drive there already exists towards changing. It may be
small, it may be large - but what there is, is focused on.
Imagine you’ve changed. What are the positive outcomes? One of the most persuasive
words is “imagine”. For a moment the hurdles in getting to a desired outcome,
which may be quite relative anyway, is put aside and the mind is focused on the positives of the ideal outcome. Judgement is suspended and the
attraction to a positive outcome is expanded.
If you take a next step, what would it be? To build on the potential growing motivation to change - what is the smallest and most immediate action you can take towards the new behavior? By identifying the “one small step”, the new mind-frame is activated and keeping up the new insight or habit is strengthened.
The philosopher Blaise
Pascal said: “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis
of proof but on the basis of what they themselves find attractive.” Very true.
(Source: Adapted from the work of Dr Michael Pantalon in medical ER units where his approach has yielded exceptional results and is now part of medical training in the United States.)