How to Change Someone's Mind

How to Change Someone's Mind

Changing someone’s mind is one of the most difficult task any owner, manager or sales professional faces. Imagine that you want to convince your team to change cabinet lines. This is never an easy decision. Your team may resist because they are familiar with the line. They like the rep. They don’t want to venture into the unknown of a new supplier. The reasons for resistance are many. How do you obtain buy-in? 

University of Pennsylvania Professor Adam Grant in his new book Think Again explains that when you try to change someone’s mind, the first impulse is to preach why you are correct and prosecuting the other person for being wrong. Prosecuting and preaching don’t work. In fact, they are counterproductive, often resulting in the person whose mind you are trying to change to become more intransient. Grant writes, “Much as a vaccine inoculates the physical immune system against a virus, the act of resistance fortifies the psychological immune system. Refuting a point of view produces antibodies against future attempts at influence, making people more certain of their own opinions and more ready to rebut alternatives.”

Instead of preaching, Grant recommends providing a reason for someone to change their mind.  That is accomplished by asking open-ended questions and listening carefully to their responses and “holding up a mirror so they can see their own thoughts more clearly.” In the example of trying to convince your team to buy into the change, the conversation may feature the following:

You: I would like to better understand your feelings about the existing line.

Team: It’s a line we know like the back of our hand. We don’t see any reason to change because it’s not broken so why fix it.

You: Is there anything about the line that you would like to improve?

Team: The customer service is not great and we certainly could use a few more paint and finish options.

You: No line is perfect. What would cause you to change lines?

Team: If we could be guaranteed better performance, ease of use and more options.

The goal of using this technique is to determine the motivation a team member has to either sticking with what is known or resisting change to the unknown and what you can do to help your team or those who resist change to achieve their goals.  

Another tool is to listen to what Grant terms “change talk” or a reference to a desire, willingness or commitment to change. The desire for better performance, ease of use and more options in a cabinet line is change talk. Even the most stubborn people in the world admit they are willing to change their minds.

You may not be always able to change someone’s mind or achieve buy-in, but what you can do is understand the motivation for a position and if someone is open to different or new options.

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