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You’re not changing their mind

Have you ever been in an argument where the other person seemed oblivious to the obvious? Growing up with the internet, I find myself engaging in discussions like this. Plenty of times, I think to myself the person on the other end must be severely stupid. But over time, I’ve come to realize that it’s not about intelligence. It’s about beliefs.

Beliefs act as mental models that shape how we perceive the world. And once these models are formed, they become resistant to change.

I found many intriguing takeaways from Dave Gray’s book “Liminal Thinking,” which can be applied to conflict resolution. Here I discuss my reflections on these ideas.

The Pyramid of Belief

The pyramid of belief is the idea that what is “obvious” to you is built on a very small set of data and the attention that you actively use to understand your experiences.

The Stages of the Pyramid of Belief

Pyramid of belief

Pyramid of belief image from “Liminal Thinking” by Dave Gray.

  1. Experiences: You encounter reality through your five senses, constantly receiving a vast amount of information.
  2. Attention: Out of this vast amount of information, only a small fraction captures your focus and becomes the basis for further processing and learning.
  3. Transformation: Through the process of transforming your attention-driven experiences, theories, judgements, and beliefs begin to take shape. These beliefs, in turn, solidify what you perceive as obvious.

I find this concept fascinating because it explains how people can hold different beliefs despite having the same experience.

The Challenge of Changing Beliefs

There are a plethora of other reasons why changing someone’s beliefs might be difficult. Confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, social reinforcements and more. However, instead of focusing on changing someone else’s mind, the biggest takeaway is that in order to change someone’s mind, you have to understand that your logic is rarely going to work. Their beliefs are deeply rooted in their lived experiences and their constructed mental models.

Recognizing that simply presenting logical arguments is unlikely to change someone’s beliefs.

Solution

To paraphrase “Liminal thinking.” A powerful way to bridge a gap in beliefs is to share a common experience. Storytelling fosters the mutual understanding needed to close divides. The solution should never be to prove yourself right or wrong but to be open to understanding where the other person comes from and try to reach common ground.

Debating is foolish. Reasoning, logic, and evidence often lead to further arguments rather than resolution and understanding. Conflicts are unavoidable. When faced with a disagreement, I’ve learned the best thing to do is find common ground and move on with life.

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.