On Thursday, AsapSCIENCE released a fascinating video about the art of persuasion as it pertains to political and social arguments.
As a conservative living in a very progressive area, with a very progressive friend-group, I have often found myself at my wits end when attempting to convince others of the merits of my belief system. With this video, AsapSCIENCE explains in short order what it took me years to learn on my own.
Here are the most useful bits of information:
People Push Back
The first and most disappointing thing that you have to come to terms with is this — facts don’t convince people, especially if they already have an opinion. We all like to think that information or indisputable studies would convince us in an argument, but study after study shows that when certain facts don’t conform to our beliefs, our brains are happy to disregard or simply rationalize them away.
For me, this is indeed the most frustrating aspect of argumentation. Even with the facts on your side, people will still find ways to reject your point of view in favor of their personal positions.
If I asked you to write your understanding of something like a toilet, zippers, or computers, chances are you believe you know way more than you actually do. Go on and try to explain step-by-step how a toilet or a zipper functions in detail. Sometimes, this simple act can expose how baseless ours or another’s opinion is.
This is critical. When debating someone on a political or social issue, don’t simply assert your vision, but ask them questions about their own. As the AsapSCIENCE video noted, many beliefs are underpinned by very little. By asking questions, you allow your opponent to undermine their own position. They will likely feel less threatened because the attack isn’t coming from an outsider, but from their own analysis.
Finding Common Ground
It turns out that we need to focus on the common motive . . . that is, focus on the motives and things you can agree on . . . humans are known to have something called an in-group and out-group bias. We tend to be skeptical of outsiders or people we see as different from us. This can come in the form of race, religion, physical traits, gender, but also in the form of ideas. So, people who don’t share your ideas are part of your out-group. Studies have been done to show that if you can find a way to relate to people and have them see you in a different light, to see you as part of their in-group, they are much more likely to listen to you than if they think you are nothing like them.
Finding common ground is paramount if you want to persuade someone of your political or social perspective. When we find common ground, we move from a position of “the enemy” to one of “a teammate” who is simply trying to find solutions to the same problem from a different angle.
It’s easy to become exasperated when debating progressives, but always remember that at the core, you are both human beings who are attempting to solve a problem. Your friend or family member may have developed a perspective that you believe is wildly incorrect, but simply repeating facts and figures isn’t always going to help convince them that your viewpoint is the better one.
Connect on a human level, ask questions, and be patient.