How do I argue against stubborn people

Convincing people: this is how you get the toughest heads down

Anyone who wants to convince business partners, employees or customers of their opinion often makes a cardinal error - and fails. A neuroscientist knows how to do better.

Have you ever tried to argue with someone who opposes vaccination? It is to be crazy. You talk your mouth fluffy, have the best arguments on your side and can clearly show that the other person is wrong - and yet he does not deviate from his opinion. On the contrary, the other person often feels empowered.

Because you're dealing with an incorrigible stubborn head?

It is more likely that you have unconsciously chosen the wrong strategy. If you try to convince other people of your opinion, you tend to fall into a reflex: you insist on being right. The only stupid thing is that this is totally incompatible with the way the other person's brain works.

We like to insist that we are right

Let's get back to the anti-vaccine counterpart, for example: Since a study from 1998, the rumor has persisted that there is a connection between vaccinations and an increased risk of autism. That has long since been refuted. But the fear of many parents has remained.

Most people would now try to convince the skeptical parents with scientific evidence and make them realize that they are wrong. Anyone who hears that the vaccine has been proven not to lead to autism would have to change their mind. That sounds reasonable. But it doesn't work.

The mistake: we try to argue the opposite opinion away with evidence

Tali Sharot, a psychologist and neuroscientist from the USA, has analyzed the brain mechanisms behind human beliefs in her new book “The Opinion of Others”. She explains why trying to change people's minds with arguments is often doomed to failure: “We evaluate information in relation to preconceived beliefs. The further the new data is from the existing views, the less chance there is that it will be perceived as valid. "

So: No matter how good the arguments may be - they will not really resonate with the other person if they are very convinced of their opinion.

Which strategy works better to convince people

Sharot's tip is: Do not try to shake a firmly rooted belief, but rather anchor a new belief in the head of the other person.

In the discussion with the concerned parents this would mean: Instead of explaining that the vaccine does not cause autism, one should rather emphasize that it can protect the child from a, in the worst case scenario, fatal disease. This strategy is more likely to cause parents to change their minds - this has been scientifically proven.

Why does it work? When two very different opinions collide in a discussion, you often go round in circles. Everyone wants to be right. Tali Sharot writes: "In order to successfully initiate change, we have to strive to find common motives." The common motive in the vaccination example is the child's health, which must be protected. If one appeals to this common goal, the other can be more easily changed.

Argument meets counter-argument - you won't get any further that way

Can this principle be transferred to everyday work? An example: Entrepreneur Schneider wants to establish new software in his company. He considers the current program to be out of date and too slow. His business partner Schmidt, who is responsible for IT, strictly rejects this. He chose the old program back then, it is familiar to him, it has been running without errors for a long time.

The discussion rocks, Schneider gets angry. He insists that the current solution is crap. Later he sends his colleague Schmidt an email with a link: The benefits of the new software are praised in a test report from a trade journal.

And what does Schmidt do? He replies with an article from another journal pointing out security holes in the program. The two do not get any further. They insist on their respective opinions, back them up with arguments - and there is no solution in sight.

It is better to focus on the similarities than on the differences

It would have been more promising because it was more adapted to the functioning of the human brain: Schneider emphasized to his colleague how important it is for the success of the company to face the challenges of digitization. In order to keep up with the rapid changes, you have to use software that meets the latest standards. Isn't it time to check whether the current solution is still the best for the company?

Schneider therefore focuses on what is common to both camps (ensuring the company's success in the future) instead of what there is disagreement about (which software is better). This leads to a completely different discussion - and it becomes much more likely that Schneider can change his colleague's mind.

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The book

Tali Sharot: The opinion of others. How it determines our thoughts and actions - and how we influence them.Hardcover, 304 pages. Settlers, 24.99 euros.