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How to Change Your Political Opponent’s Mind

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How to Change Your Political Opponent's Mind

In today’s political landscape, many believe that changing the political views of another person is nearly impossible. I must be a hopeless optimist, because I think it’s not nearly as difficult as many seem to believe. A process does exist that can change the politics of someone else, but that process comes with one, simple condition:

When it comes to changing another person’s political mind, you must first be willing, truly willing, to have your mind changed as well.

Related: The Paradox of Knowledge: How to Earn the Trust of Your Audience

This condition is 100% within your control, but this condition is nonnegotiable.  After all, why would people be interested in opening their minds to change, if they don’t believe you are capable of doing the same? I’ve spent over 30 years of my life helping people to change minds, and I’ve worked with quite an assortment of professions. I’ve worked with executives in financial institutions, professors at multiple universities, leaders and sales people of Fortune 500 Companies, parent groups, teachers, doctors, lawyers, police officers, hostage negotiators, and many more. I’m no stranger to changing minds. But changing your political friend’s mind? Well… that’s no easy task! Here are four of the most important things you’ll need to do to change your friend’s mind on political matters:

  1. Ask questions. It sounds simple, and certainly logical, but asking questions is far from instinctive. The real irony here is that although it feels like we’re controlling the conversation when we’re speaking, it’s the person who’s asking the questions who is really controlling things. It’s a conversation, not an interrogation, so keep your questions open and you’ll assume control of the conversation.
  1. Listen to understand, not to counter. Questions are of no value if you don’t listen to the answers. Frequently, what gets in the way of our listening is the temptation to drift and begin to form a counter argument. Not only do you risk missing key information, but you also risk damaging your own credibility. You’re not fooling anyone when you twist and turn, and contort your face, just waiting to fire back a response. It is far better to really focus on the answers; you may even learn something.
  1. No one is 100% right or wrong. Surely there’s something you can learn from another person’s point of view. Surely there is something you can not only take from it, but also accept. Changing another person’s mind often takes on the life of a negotiation. It’s amazing what can happen when you use words like, “I can understand your frustration with…” or “I can understand why you feel like you do…”
  1. Support and Build. Now’s the time to present your point of view, and that view will probably differ from that of your friend. You’ve earned some good will and trust, but why ruin it by beginning your sentence with a cold and insensitive phrase like “I disagree…” It’s amazing what happens when you try using the skills showing support, and then build from that. Instead of saying, “I disagree with your approach to building a wall,” why not try something like this: “I think you make a good point when you say we need to address the flow of people into our country. (Support) What if we took those dollars and applied them to development projects in Mexico, and created a sustainable legal process to fairly sort out those who want to come?” (Build)
     

Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “Understanding is a two-way street.”

We must be willing to tolerate, if not embrace, another person’s point of view, as a condition to put forth an opinion of our own. The rest is easy…

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