Changing minds, Part One: Changing others’ minds

May 24, 2017

Young businesswoman giving presentation on future plans to her colleagues at office

We’ve all been there. You’re in a meeting and you’ve put forth an idea or a suggestion. You’ve done your research. You know your stuff. And yet, someone still objects. They don’t like your idea and have a different approach. Their gut tells them you’re wrong. You push back, citing facts and figures, maybe even anecdotal evidence. But no matter how much you argue your point, they aren’t changing their mind. Assuming you can’t just steamroll them into submission (which, even if you could, is not a good idea), what now?


As we all know, it’s hard to change someone’s mind. And it’s especially hard if someone has taken a firm stance. If people aren’t sure how they feel, they are much more likely to be swayed to your viewpoint, even if they have some concerns. However, it is possible to get people to change their minds.


Change the venue

If you get to a standstill, and hopefully before things get heated, table the discussion. People are less likely to change their minds (and admit they were wrong) in front of their peers. It’s especially hard if that person has just made an emotional case in favor of their view. Your best bet is to discuss the issue with your colleague one-on-one in a neutral, non-threatening environment. Maybe suggest sitting down in the cafeteria, which leads us to the next point.


Make sure they’re not hungry

We recently ran an article on decision fatigue. One point we discussed is how hard it is to make decisions on an empty stomach. The same applies to changing someone’s mind. Make sure they have eaten recently. You’re not going to be able to change their minds before lunch or at the end of the day.


Throw them a bone

People often arrive at a viewpoint for emotional reasons and then find reasons to support that stance. Facts alone won’t sway them away from it. Before you can get them to change their minds you need to appeal to their emotions first. Make them feel good about their original stance. Let them know that their viewpoint is right in some situations. Using phrases like, “as you correctly pointed out,” can ease the tension between you and help them to step back from being emotionally invested in their original stance.


Avoiding the problem in the first place

This can be hard to do, because you can’t always know when someone is going to come down hard in an opposing view. One needs to be sensitive to the feeling in the room and know your employees/colleagues and know when to table the discussion. If you can head off any public statements of firm opposition, then it can be easier to privately change someone’s mind. After all, they have not planted a flag in the ground for all to see, and they won’t lose face in front of their colleagues.


Be open to changing your mind

Again, people are not always 100% rational. That includes you. We’ll go into this in part two of this series, but, when discussing your idea with your colleague, keep an open mind yourself.


For help on developing better management skills, contact Vanguard Resources.