If you live in the US currently you know better than most how difficult it is to change someone’s mind. As I type this we are in our 30th day of a government shutdown. Both sides are locked in and it does not seem like anyone is budging. What we know is that it is very difficult to change someone else’s mind. We also know that is can also be very difficult to even change our own minds. While personal bias, prejudice, ingrained thoughts and behaviors can all very difficult to overcome there is very solid sociology and science to help us along that journey. In this post I want to outline what we know works when we want to either be open to other’s ideas and perspectives or to even change our minds completely.
Steps to a Changed Mind-
Adults have the most difficult minds to change because they have built a set of observations of the world that fit together like a jenga tower and support their place in the world. Scientists have found that through certain techniques our concrete world view can become more rubberized.
Exposure- There has to be some sort of experiential exposure that would put your current view or understanding in limbo or at least on less solid foundation. It is important to constantly put ourselves in places, groups and settings that challenge our worldview, be present with the other. Lower the walls of defensiveness and be an unattached observer.
Cognitive Dissonance- When we have two views on something that are in direct contradiction of one another and we are aware of this difference it creates a tension in our minds called cognitive dissonance. Allow yourself to live in this tension, do not jump to solve it or push it away.
Assimilation vs Accommodation- Piaget’s theory of what we do with cognitive dissonance-
When we Assimilate an experience that does not work with our worldview we simply say that it is an anomaly or outlier and it does not change our understanding of the world, essentially we dismiss it and continue in our previous ways of thinking unimpeded by this new information.
When we Accommodate an experience we say that our existing worldview does not work any longer because of this new knowledge or experience and we must change our worldview in order to accommodate what we now know. This now becomes a shaping part of our world view and other pieces of our through must change accordingly, it can often have a domino effect.
To continue to work a more rubber mind as an adult we must continually put ourselves in situations that provoke cognitive dissonance and allow honest reflection and awareness. When we do this we become more thoughtful, empathetic and kind people. And sometimes we even change our minds.