How To Win an Argument and Change Someone’s Mind
It’s rare that someone changes his/her mind in the middle of an argument and says “By golly, you’re right, and I’ve been mistaken all along!” We all have a huge investment in our considered decisions, and confirmation bias has reinforced the fortress we’ve built up to protect our most cherished notions. Instead, a change of mind is usually gradual. Hearing a powerful argument that goes against an established notion but that can’t be dismissed or forgotten is something like a hit by a cannonball that slices a rent in a fortress wall. Light (surprisingly) floods in, and the owner of the fortress must now deal with repairs to a battered wall. When the damage is to a long-held conclusion the repair is not physical, but mental. As the thinker nightly puts head to pillow the hole in the fortress comes looming up, right there in the bedroom, bothersome, denying sleep. A new idea begins to form: perhaps—just perhaps—the opposing argument was right (!). Then, like a bone being worried by a dog, the new idea is played with, explored, tried on for size. The circumference of the hole increases. Confirmation bias gives way to a new possibility: a willingness to look frankly at what’s right and what’s not. Over the days that follow, from unexpected sources, conversations with friends, news articles, and/or comments on TV, come new barrages poking additional holes in the wall until—either slowly or suddenly—the wall finally gives way and the fortress surrenders.
7. Conclusion. It takes courage to try and change things, but during your life you will have opportunities to speak up and do your share. You should recognize them when they arise, summon up the requisite courage, and take advantage of the opportunity to make a difference. On your deathbed you don’t want to lie there rethinking your time on earth and muttering sadly “I wish I’d said something at that one key moment when it would’ve changed everything.”
“The Deathbed Test,” July 27, 2010
“My Battle with Sony To Get a Refund on a DVD Player,” July 16, 2015;
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013; http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-guide-to-best-of-my-blog.html