This philosopher's centuries old theory helps you change anyone's mind about anything

Louis Dor
Wednesday 14 September 2016 17:00
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We've all been in a scenario when the person we're arguing with cannot see they're wrong.

How to best make them see sense? Or at least our perspective?

Well.

Blaise Pascal, the 17th century philosopher, can probably help.

Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

He devised a methodology for making someone more likely to change their mind, which modern psychologists still support as a good method.

In Pensées, Pascal wrote:

When we wish to correct with advantage, and to show another that he errs, we must notice from what side he views the matter, for on that side it is usually true, and admit that truth to him, but reveal to him the side on which it is false. He is satisfied with that, for he sees that he was not mistaken, and that he only failed to see all sides. Now, no one is offended at not seeing everything; but one does not like to be mistaken, and that perhaps arises from the fact that man naturally cannot see everything, and that naturally he cannot err in the side he looks at, since the perceptions of our senses are always true.

Adding:

People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others.

Arthur Markman, psychology professor at The University of Texas at Austin, told Quartz that his theory holds to this day:

One of the first things you have to do to give someone permission to change their mind is to lower their defenses and prevent them from digging their heels in to the position they already staked out,

If I immediately start to tell you all the ways in which you’re wrong, there’s no incentive for you to co-operate. But if I start by saying, ‘Ah yeah, you made a couple of really good points here, I think these are important issues,’ now you’re giving the other party a reason to want to co-operate as part of the exchange.

In short people like being told they're right, and being led to ideas they can think were their own conclusions.

There's our strategy.

HT Quartz

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