How to Tactfully Help People Change Their Minds

A Paradigm Shifting Experience

Think about it!  Have you ever changed your mind?  Have you experienced the challenging process of truly admitting you were wrong about something, maybe even deceived by something you trusted to be true?  If so, then perhaps you’ll find some helpful insights in the next few minutes that can assist you in conveying your discoveries to others.


Let’s face it!  Whenever we are confronted by a different opinion than our own we tend to get defensive.  We feel shaken from our “comfort zone.”  It’s not easy to admit we have been mislead or deceived.  It takes courage to be willing to convert our willing allegiance to different ideas.  Doing so can tend to make us feel like we’re betraying those whom we trusted for our own personal development.  It’s emotionally upsetting to even think that the information we relied on for direction might be wrong or inferior to more enlightened explanations.  If our sources of information were personal relationships like relatives or trusted friends or authority figures, it is even more distressing for us to even entertain the idea that they could be wrong.


We’re all human.  So realizing that we share the tendency to resist change should cause all of us to be understanding and patient with others as we work through these challenges to shift our points of view—to shift our paradigm.


Changing our mind is really a healthy and inevitable part of growing up… of maturing.  When it comes to shaping our core values and ideas about the world and principles we live by, it doesn’t take long to realize there are many topics that often stir heated debate.  We can choose to get defensive or we can choose to have an open mind.  We should dig deeper to establish our personal convictions but better yet, we should also realize that new information could lead us to adjust those convictions.  For many of us the choice is somewhat directed by what we have seen modeled by those we look up to.  If we’ve lived with people who were calm and considerate we will tend to be less reactive than those who have been surrounded by volatile and prejudiced personalities.


Most of us don’t really like getting into an argument.  That’s why we would rather avoid discussing something controversial if there’s a possibility we might have to defend our position with someone who has a different opinion.  So, how do you know if it is even appropriate to open a conversation with someone about a topic that you fear could provoke an uneasy controversy?


First, examine your deep personal inner motive.  Are you bent on proving you’re right or do you sincerely care about the person you’re addressing enough to consider their own concerns and perspectives.  Let them know you can humbly identify with them.  Put yourself in their place.  Tell them you understand their feelings.  Admit that maybe you were even in their position or at least that you know others you respect and admire who held the same position they hold.  Then humbly give them a simple statement that you discovered something else that transformed your thinking about the matter.  They may have some curiosity about your own story.  That’s when you can help them discover your own unique journey.  If you treat it like a story they’re more likely to want to hear about it.  It’s just human nature.


You may have heard that attitude is everything.  When it comes to making progress or expanding our understanding of reality there is nothing more important than having a positive and humble attitude.  It’s not easy to diffuse negativity and arrogance.  If a few probing questions don’t raise some open curiosity, it might be better to wait for a better opportunity.  After all, it’s not our job to convert everyone we run into.  Serve water to those who are thirsty.  Help whoever you can to create a sense of thirst, but trying to convince someone who is dead set against what you have to say is simply asking for a conflict… and maybe more trouble than you are prepared to handle.


How important is it to have the right environment to change our mind?  We can’t very well eat certain kinds of food unless it’s prepared properly, right?  Raw meat and unbaked bread dough are rarely attractive to anybody are they?  Neither can you expect people to swallow some advanced information if they haven’t even heard the basics.  That’s why we must always be sensitive to the fact that we grow incrementally.  If we’ve been deceived over time, how likely is it that it happened incrementally?  It may take some time and several “chapters” of convincing before we build a strong enough case to persuade other people to change their paradigm.


Appetite may be the best “sauce” to help people swallow their food, but let’s not miss the influence of a good presentation.  Just as an attractive table setting and colorful platter embellishment invites us to enjoy a good meal, the “packaging” of our information is also likely to influence whether or not others will investigate it.  A positively presented message with enhancements that stimulate the senses is much more likely to gain a listening ear than one that is negative and dreary.


I learned that the first step toward any change is awareness of something you didn’t know. You can only change something when you are AWARE that there exists something that can be changed.

Isn’t this the key to all change?  When CAN begin to make changes?  Is it not at that point when you are aware that your thoughts led you to a feeling, and then that feeling led you to take an action which then led to a result?

What do you think is the second step toward making a change?  Could it be a conscious change in your own understanding?  So where does your “way of thinking” originate?  Could it be that you came to honestly admitting that your own understanding was created by your own exposure to ideas and concepts that came from outside of you?

Think about it.  Is there a thought or belief in you that was ever formed by anything other than something outside of yourself?  It might have been at home or at school.  It could have come from the radio, TV or from books.  But, if we’re honest, we weren’t born with a preprogrammed ‘chip’ of insight and understanding.  Haven’t all of our insights and ideas about things been formulated because of inputs from the constant bombardment of the opinions of others?   Do you think that admitting this – being aware of this – can help us to at least have a healthy desire to question some of what we do and believe?