How to change someone’s opinion

An opinion doesn’t typically change in the moment.

A conversation, the relationship, needs to evolve. Thoughts must be tabled, discussed. Credibility needs to be established. Trust needs to be built.

Seth Godin says, “If you want to change people’s minds, you need more than evidence. You need persistence. And empathy. And mostly, you need the resources to keep showing up, peeling off one person after another, surrounding a cultural problem with a cultural solution.”

The reality is, no one immediately changes an ingrained opinion that has been formed from years of personal experience and interactions, their education, culture and myriad other influencing factors. We often think that if we can just find common ground, a common language, that we can flip people’s opinions on their head, right then and there, like a coin toss.

But this isn’t reality. As Godin sums up the phenomenon: The flip isn’t something that happens at first glance or encounter.

You can, however, introduce a different perspective to provoke questions that will ultimately lead to the flip. Since vantage points, experience, culture, and knowledge all affect the evolution of communication, what information or experiences can you introduce to the crowd to open up the discussion and their minds?

Eventually, we may come to see eye-to-eye if not agree wholeheartedly. We can work towards understanding by agreeing to disagree in some cases by at least acknowledging that the other person has valid concerns.

Science communication strategy starts and finishes with audience-centricity. Too many people are scared of science or have never had it properly explained. Share and explain, but remember that a common language isn’t always what you say or how you speak; it’s also about what you mean. Be transparent and true; be helpful, trustworthy, and meaningful. On the flip-side, listen and learn.

In the end, it’s all in the details: manage your communications like you manage your farm. The same small changes and opportunities, hard work and persistence will eventually pay off.

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