Why is it so difficult to change someone’s mind

Ideas give us stability.

A man without ideas, a man without notions, a man without strong opinions is an exception. A very rare one. Perhaps there isn’t even a single such folk out there.

If a person comes across you as unbiased, receptive to your contrary ideas, like an unset clay pot, perhaps he or she is faking it. Yes, in this world of ours there are too many people in this world who choose to be diplomatic rather than being plain honest. They won’t argue with you. They won’t counter your opinions. Instead, they would appear to listen to you as if they are genuinely interested. Such people avoid confrontation. For they know it serves no purpose. You would rarely see these people revealing their political allegiance. They are like a mystery. Like people who don’t care (but they do). Maturity. Yes, that is what it is called. But tell you what? If this is maturity, then it’s nothing more than confrontation avoidance, dishonesty, and deception. That is why some people are of the view – “I would rather like a person who argues and is assertive than a seasoned diplomat who agrees with me all the time but has in store in his mind nothing but expletives, disrespect and utter disregard for me.”
Anyway, let’s come to the point. The reason why people have strong opinions is that it gives them stability. An opinionated man is not only confident (doesn’t matter whether his opinions are factually or morally right or wrong), he is also focussed. It doesn’t happen in a day. As we grow up we are shaped by what and who surrounds us, our early life experiences, the books that we read, the media that we consume. But the clay pot isn’t hardened until adolescence. It is only when we cross our teenage years (which is the stage of utter confusion), we began becoming highly opinionated. And by the time we are adults, the ideas are etched on our souls like permanent markings on a piece of rock. It makes us who we are. There is no scope for a compromise. This is why people rarely change their opinions after a certain age. Why undermine your own identity? Why challenge what makes you you? As a result, we all become a sort of a monolith. Irresistible to any change.

Cognitive Dissonance.

This is the extension of the previous part. Any opinion or an idea that challenges our viewpoint produces a cognitive dissonance in us. It is a threat to our ego, our identity (which has taken so long to form). As a result, people are resistant to hearing contrary opinions. They would instead read, listen to or watch stuff that further bolsters their ideas. Confirmation bias. Of all the available information, they would selectively choose the part that agrees with them. The “truth” would be out there in front of them, but they would rather do mental gymnastics than giving their opinions a second thought. The media companies realise this. This is not only clear by the suggestions we see on the websites “You might also like…” and targeted ads on social websites. But it is also clear by the fact that no two people get the same search result for the same search phrase on the same search engine at the same time. These social media apps, websites and search engines track your behaviour, your likes and dislikes, your political inclination and serve you the content that you would like to consume. Not only this is deleterious in the long run for an individual, but it is also dividing our society into blocks that wouldn’t tolerate the existence of the other. As a result, most people are living in an echo chamber. They hear what they want to hear. They read what they want to read. They see what they want to see. With no relation to what the “actual reality” is. We pay a high price to avoid cognitive dissonance. The price of not trying to assimilate with each other. The price of a constant ideological struggle. And in some cases, even riots and civil war. It is sad. But that is how most people are. Not willing to change. Not willing to understand. Not willing to doubt what they so vehemently believe in.

Most of the time it is the tone and attitude of the opponent.

I remember the school days when we were asked to participate in a debate. We were randomly assigned positions and we had to defend them irrespective of whether we believed in them or not. Once I even resisted. I told my teacher that I want to speak for the for and not the against. As that is what I believe in. But my teacher said, “it is not about the content, it is about developing these debating skills in a person.” This is where the problem lies. We debate not to convince each other. We debate to score points. We debate to belittle our opponent. As a result, we often assume a bad tone or become highly belligerent. Our opponent feels offended. It becomes a matter of pride.  The logic processing areas of our brain shut down. And emotions take over. We fight tooth and nail to defend our ideas. We are in no mood to understand or convince the other. All we want is to win by shortening the opponent’s line instead of increasing our own. Most of the time people also resort to personal attacks and ad hominem responses. Naturally, it flares the situation further. Rather than talking about the idea people abuse each other, point out silly things such as a gaffe or grammatical mistake, pass judgements on their opponents. Thus, the man debating becomes more important than the idea he is debating about. Consequence? It is a waste of time. After the debate is over nothing is achieved. People instead find themselves in a bad mood, pity or hate themselves or the person they just debated with. If only we could talk peacefully, if only we could be a little less aggressive, if only we could be factual instead of being emotional, perhaps our opponent would change his or her views.  If not, then forget it.

Some people are simply corrupt

Yes. This is a plain and simple truth. People are paid to debate. Their livelihoods are linked with it. So, no matter what they actually believe in, for money and power they would oppose you. Such people have no values. They are just like paid mercenaries. In this intellectual war, they would choose the side that pays them the most. Make them an offer they can’t refuse, and they will wear your dog collar. It is just a matter of economic convenience, nothing else. Arguing with such people is a waste of time. I know you very well realise, who I am pointing towards. So nothing further needs to be written about this.

Conclusion

Most people are not going to switch camps no matter how much you reason with them. And even if they are, it is not going to be an overnight affair. It takes a long time to adopt any stance. And it will take a long time to break it. No, we shouldn’t be diplomatic. We shouldn’t resort to deception by agreeing with our friend all the time. This maturity of avoiding confrontations is harmful in the long run. We should challenge our debater. But at the same time, we should realise that it is not about scoring points. Ultimately, our goal should be to grow with time and help others grow too. But take it slow. Yes, your opponent can change long-held views. Just be polite and factual, and give him or her some time and some space.

6 Thoughts

  1. I liked the article very much, ” why it is very difficult to change”.
    Threadbare dissection of the psyche of the people living around us has been done who are clinging to the ideas of destruction of the family, destroying the right thinking people. By doing so they breed insanity amongst the masses, spread lies and rumours and also taking the side of the wrong and corrupt people. They have chosen the people to destroy the fabric of the state to create disharmony to the extent of inflaming the sentiments to create rioting and creating a huge law and order situation by lobbying with the wrong political party to destabilize the country. These people are self serving and there is no remedy for them unless the law enforcing agencies, the courts and Government are really honest. People mostly are easy going and non-exerting types and don’t contribute anything.

    Like

  2. Majority People find it easy to fake it, be diplomatic & be called Matured…there are very few indeed who choose to stay out of the crowd and stick to their thoughts…that’s why Honesty is priceless

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very Well Written! Crisp and explains “why it is difficult to change someone’s mind” nicely. Also, tells us about the approach to do it!

    Like

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