How did you convince someone to change their mind?
October 11, 2004 5:36 PM   Subscribe

When was the last time that anyone convinced you to change your mind about something important? (e.g. politics, religion, job, boyfriend/girlfriend, lifestyle, haircut, annoying personal habits.) How did they do it? [mi]
posted by armchairsocialist to Human Relations (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Often my wife will come up with an idea, and I'm busy, or cranky, or not listening, and then about a week later it bubbles back up to the surface and I think it's my idea, but it really wasn't.

George Lakoff has some good writing on this in regards to politics.
posted by mecran01 at 5:56 PM on October 11, 2004

Response by poster: I've been puzzling over this a lot lately, in part because of the election... but also in general. How do you convince somebody to make a serious shift in outlook and/or behavior? Logic, even when it is absolutely irrefutable rarely does the trick. And passionately arguing a point with somebody seems to make them clam up and stand their ground even more stubbornly.

Here at metafilter, we all know this.

I'm a pretty logical and level-headed guy, and books and magazine articles and university classes have changed my views on a lot of things. But I can't remember the last time that another individual person really changed my mind on any issue that seriously mattered to me. The biggest mindset changes in my life--going from conservative to liberal, e.g.--happened essentially spontaneously, rushed along by other upset in my life.

And I know plenty of people who are totally unreasonable and "intuitive"--what to do with them?

In high school, we used to beat people up, and--no kidding/deadly serious--it really would bring them around.

Since you can't do that in adult life, what has worked on you?

(If you want a non-political example, also weighing much on me, my roommate never washes the dishes after she has dinner--even though we have VERMIN. She always leaves them overnight and does them in the morning. I have tried everything: pleading, logic, fury, passive-agressive hostility, leaving the toilet seat up. Short of putting her in the hospital, is there any hope?)
posted by armchairsocialist at 5:56 PM on October 11, 2004

my partner (thinking of a recent example; anyone in general, i would hope) - she said something, i disagreed. later, after thinking it over, i decided she was right.

i don't think there's any special effort needed on the part of the person doing the persuading, except that they need to be significantly important to you for you to take the time to reflect on what they say. if you're involved in arguing a point, it's difficult to see the other side, but later it's fairly easy.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:08 PM on October 11, 2004

or, i guess, what mecran01 said - i think much of the reflection is subconscious (their "bubbling up").
posted by andrew cooke at 6:10 PM on October 11, 2004

Near-constant, implacable nagging (at least for the cutting the hair thing. Although "I'm not sleeping with you again till you cut that greasy mop at least short enough so that it doesn't hang into my face," got results significantly faster.)

For the dish thing, I just started throwing away my roommates dirty dishes if they were left in the sink more than 24 hours. Though this inspired some mild retaliation at first, I weathered it and pretty soon they got the hint that one way or another that sink was getting cleared every goddam (week-)night. In my experience drastic action inspires only awe, admiration, and/or confusion the first time around. Drastic action repeated on a consistent basis gets the message across. Its alot like training a dog: you don't hit hard enough to do damage, but hit hard and often enough to scare them and pretty soon you don't have to hit them at all.

For everything else, though, I usually don't waste my time. I have a personal mantra that goes: "Arguing about music is alot like arguing about religion; you're not going to change anyone's mind, so its pointless to even bother."
posted by ChasFile at 6:13 PM on October 11, 2004

I actually change my mind pretty easily when presented with a clear argument that appeals to facts I can verify from a trusted source or relevant bits of my own experience.

I suspect many people do, in fact, and it's entirely possible that the ideas people tend to not change their mind on are the ideas for which the factors I mentioned above aren't available.
posted by weston at 6:14 PM on October 11, 2004

As an aside, don't hit your dog.
posted by jennyb at 6:26 PM on October 11, 2004

She always leaves them overnight and does them in the morning. I have tried everything.

You have not tried everything. You need to make it clear that this kind of behavior (or lack thereof) really bothers you. So much so that it makes you insane. For instance, take the dirty plates and place them on her bed. Explain that you'd rather have the vermin in her room, since it's her fault for not doing the dishes.

Or just hide the dishes. Take all the dishes away and let her fend for herself.

Leaving the toilet seat up isn't good enough. You must piss all over it.

Look at it this way, you may never change her ways, but at least you can get some small amount of smug satisfaction knowing you really pissed her off. Now she'll know how you feel.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:33 PM on October 11, 2004

Great question, and like everyone else, I'll throw my dearest and most closely held principles out the window to please my wife ("significant other," for those in need of degendered variables). The effect is most pronounced when I am unaware it's happening, and god knows it's not something she plans.

My question, then, is: "Is this a benefit of marriage, or a detriment?"
posted by mwhybark at 6:46 PM on October 11, 2004

she dumped me. that worked, quick smart.
posted by bonaldi at 6:59 PM on October 11, 2004

degendered variables - is that a snark? we're not christians or otherwise seeking external approval and/or support for what is, ultimately, something deeply personal married, hence "partner".
posted by andrew cooke at 7:41 PM on October 11, 2004

Reverse psychology works wonders. People prefer to think they've made up their own minds, rather than take directions, it makes one feel stupid. Domestically speaking, we have an arrangement that whoever first gets really bothered by some disorder, takes care of it. In your situation, I guess I'd do the dishes myself, or get paper plates.
posted by semmi at 7:45 PM on October 11, 2004

I was on an online music discussion group, and the talk turned to politics. I was hardcore Republican at the time; or at least, I wasn't the little fascist (self description) I was in high school, but still strongly right. A few folks whose musical opinions I deeply respected weighed in on politics in a way that struck a nerve, and I delved further into the links they offered. Within months, I self-identified on the other side of the aisle. in a nutshell, not actually trying to convert me did the trick.
posted by notsnot at 8:41 PM on October 11, 2004

I'm not sure how George Bush did it, but six months ago I was thinking I was going to vote for him. Somehow he convinced me not to.
posted by Apoch at 9:43 PM on October 11, 2004

Re: the plate issue. There's some really nice paper/plastic/otherwise throwaway plates out there. Can you exist on those until she gets too sick of them?

Do you have a dishwasher? Even if you're renting, you can get a portable for a couple hundred bucks (less if it's used). Saved my sanity when I lived in an old, quaint apartment.
posted by GaelFC at 10:00 PM on October 11, 2004

Domestically speaking, we have an arrangement that whoever first gets really bothered by some disorder, takes care of it.

What kind of self-abuse is this? Ok, armchairsocialist, what you should do, then, is allow the vermin to multiply. Encourage them to nest and forrage. When she finally starts getting annoyed at all the rats and plague in your house, kindly explain to her that, "Hey, it's your bag, maaan."

Do you have a dishwasher?

I think he made it clear there already is a dishwasher in the house that works on far less electricity and is just as effective.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:51 PM on October 11, 2004

As an aside, don't hit your dog.

degendered variables - is that a snark? we're not christians or otherwise seeking external approval and/or support for what is, ultimately, something deeply personal married, hence "partner".

Everyone is sufficiently impressed by your superior morality and PC enlightenment. Maybe now we can get back on topic? Awesome.
posted by ChasFile at 11:00 PM on October 11, 2004

"degendered variables - is that a snark?"


posted by mwhybark at 11:54 PM on October 11, 2004

I usually differentiate between beliefs and behaviors and figure it's easier to change the latter than the former. It's also more visible to change the latter than the former. In many cases -- as with the roomate example -- it's more important to change behavior. If your roomate is still secretly a mess, who cares as long as it's a secret?

I've changed my behavior over a lot of things, sometimes a change in beliefs follows, sometimes not. Most recently, I voted. Despite my entrenched radical politics, I'm dating and deeply attached to a Democrat. This is mostly good and in some ways it sucks so our political life together is a series of small compromises, most of them not overt. He's a bit disturbed by my non-voting stance [I vote locally, generally not nationally, I'm politically active in many ways but not this one] and I spent a lot of time both debating it with him and questioning my own beliefs on the subject. In the end, this year, I decided to vote. Ultimately this was for my own reasons, but I never would have considered it if it hadn't been for the quiet but relentless "why don't you just try it" questioning from my boyfriend. I figure next election I am free to do it my way since this time I did it his way [though I voted for who I wanted]. Some points that I think are useful in the complicated world of mind/behavior changing
geniune options. telling people they just have to do something ignores whatever reason they may have for not doing it. trying to figure out why they do things how they do it and working with that, not against it is a good idea. Its easier to recycle if people can put their recycling out with their trash, it's easier to eat organic if you can find organic food in the supermarket, it's easier to vote if you can get an absentee ballot mailed to you. Die hard voters and vegetarians and recyclers will do these things anyhow, but to get reluctant people to try new things, if the moral argument isn't working, you'll need to take another tack.
compromise. just saying "because I'm the mom, that's why" generally flies with no one, even the kid. Figure out what you could do differently to achieve desired results and make an offer.
sanctions. Though I'm not in favor of some of the "dishes in the bed" techniques mentioned here, they do get results. Figuring out what is a real deterrent [hint: it's not you asking nicely, or hollering, apparently] to the bad behavior can be a start. In this case, vermin is really a dealbreaker. If the roomate wants to put all her dishes in a plastic bag to keep it free from vermin, that's maybe an acceptable compromise, but make it clear, she has to deal with the vermin or you both get evicted, leading to #4
solutions. often ideas that come from the person being forced to change willl have more long-lasting appeal. Ask her what will work and then work on some way to enforce whatever deal you guys agree to. stick to your part, have her stick to hers or come up with a working solution
crossing the line. and, at the end of it, she may not ever tow the line. be prepared to either move out, make her move out, or live with it. Ultimately, you can't make people do what they won't do, but you can choose what you do [and no I'm not in AA but this has always struck a chord with me]
So I think the simple answer, from my perspective to the "can I make my roomate see the wisdom in doing the dishes?" may be no, but the answer to the question "can I solve this dish problem?" may be yes.
posted by jessamyn at 8:43 AM on October 12, 2004

I think you're also more likely to change someone's mind by talking to them rather than arguing with them (which has sort of floated through this thread but not been said explicity). I've changed opinions after a conversation, but never after a shouting match. Which means, as Jessamyn said, actually caring about why the other person thinks X and questioning that, rather than just insisting that you're right.

All of this actually sounds very salesman-y, now that I write it out.
posted by occhiblu at 12:57 PM on October 12, 2004

Also, to actually answer the question posed: I've changed my life and priorities considerably since I started dating my non-gendered variable. Mostly from seeing how he lives his life, and hearing him talk about what's important to him. So more of inspiration than persuasion, I guess.
posted by occhiblu at 1:00 PM on October 12, 2004

ChasFile, these posts are here forever. They're searchable by people who might not get what you think is an on-point analogy. Someone searching for 'dog training' may come across your post and thus bolster their misguided attempts to train dogs by hitting them. I hope this reason is enough to change your mind about using such an analogy in the future. On topic.
posted by sageleaf at 1:50 PM on October 12, 2004

in my experience, people don't change their minds/behavior/beliefs/habits because you want them to; they change them because they want to. i've changed my habits &c, as have my roommates, boyfriends, &c, but never because someone bullied us into it, whether overtly (like beating a dog) or passive-aggressively (like piling dirty dishes in our beds--which i've done, in a fit of immature pique).

all you can do is explain why it bothers you, suggest alternatives, and hope that your discomfort motivates your roommate to change. but i wouldn't hold my breath; i'd find a new roommate.

when it's the spouse/partner/long-term investment relationship, in my experience, the other's discomfort is some sort of motivation to change. when it isn't, one of you is probably being unreasonable.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:41 PM on October 12, 2004 [1 favorite]

I'll tell you what changed my mind - Pain.

I used to drink soda. Lots of it. Coke.

Then I had a kidney stone; nice aversion therapy (couldn't eat/drink/sleep for 3 days).

I think, unfortuantely, that more often than not - we have our "minds" made up about "important things" - politics, religion; so often so, that it takes drastic life changes (pain) to alter these beliefs.

When was the time you heard of someone changing religion, because somene talked them into it? This and politics are called Beliefs and not "well thought out ideas" for a reason.

Often you have to overcome their internal decision makers (their guy). If you do work out a method, let me know, occasionally the Latter Day Saints come by, looking to convert.
posted by filmgeek at 5:49 PM on October 12, 2004

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