What to do if you want to change a person's mind

Advice from psychologists can help you save your nerves and even change your opponent's mind.

Grandma doesn't want to get vaccinated because she believes in chipping and the world conspiracy. Your child's teacher complains about today's kids and is going to ban cell phones. And a colleague suddenly refuses to perform an important task because "Mercury is retrograde right now. And so you already feel a powerful urge to prove them all wrong.

But psychologist Adam Grant thinks you should act differently.

Adam Grant

Psychologist, journalist, and author of books.

When we want to change someone's mind, our first impulse is to tell why we are right and to reproach our opponent for his mistakes. Experiments show, however, that preaching and harassment can backfire and only reinforce the other person's beliefs.

Consider whether an argument is even worthwhile

Before you pull out your knives, check: are you sure you have relevant and expert information to refer to? Are there weaknesses in your judgment? When you operate on unverified information, there is a danger of looking like a flatlander or devil's advocate. In such a case, it is hardly worth starting an argument.

The second point: remember that the process of change of mind is likely to take time and nerves. Consultant psychologist Holly Weeks advises a sober assessment of your strengths. It is better to meet people without conflicts on a dating site. Do you have the physical, mental and emotional capacity to debate right now? And who do you think is the person you want to argue with? Is it that important to you to change his mind?

If we are talking, for example, the grandmother on the porch, which complaints about the current youth, it is hardly the case, when it is worth investing in the conversation. It is quite another matter of your loved one's beliefs that can harm him or someone else. For example, he believes that cancer can be cured with soda and meditation.

Try to understand your opponent

Get rid of the inner installation that your opponent - a narrow-minded sheep. Chances are, he can't hear you, not because he can't get the gist of your arguments, but because... he's afraid.

Researchers have found that people don't take well to facts that threaten their identity, that is, perceptions of themselves and connections to certain groups (vegans, meat-eaters, feminists, pro-lifers, and so on).

When one shares the opinion of the community (e.g., "no abortions"), it strengthens one's group identity and simultaneously puts one in opposition to one's ideological opponents. But any deviation from the course, according to experts, makes him vulnerable and makes him anxious.

David Ropeik

Risk perception expert, author of books.

We are social animals who instinctively rely on the "tribe" for security. That's why any disloyalty seems dangerous: the "tribe" can throw us out.

But even if a person is not afraid of being excluded from some community, he or she may still feel uncomfortable. Psychologist Clifford Lazarus attributes this phenomenon to cognitive dissonance. When a person learns some information that does not correspond to the information he already possesses, it creates a contradiction in his mind.

The first reaction in such a situation is defense. In some cases, it may manifest as a backward effect, where instead of accepting all your slender evidence, the person becomes even more closed in his truth. This happens because he is trying to regain his inner harmony.

In general, instead of starting your ideological expansion with a thesis that breaks the pattern, try to be empathic and prepare the person. Create a comfortable atmosphere for him, reassure him that you understand him, don't try to destroy his identity, and don't want him to feel weak and insecure.


Ha ha! What else can you say? That climate change doesn't exist?


I had a hard time believing that climate change was real. I thought it was some new government trick or a marketing ploy.

Speak calmly and respectfully

Respectful means not belittling your opponent and his views, and showing empathy (back to the previous tip).

Also, it's not just what you say that matters, but how you say it. You want to avoid using an aggressive tone or raising your voice. Scientists have found that our brain perceives criticism When a person hears a loud unpleasant sound, he may feel fear, which will motivate him to simply "run away" from the source of danger.

Use the Pascal Method

The essence is to confirm the correctness of the interlocutor in some aspect with which you agree, and then point out the problem areas of judgment. That way your opponent will get the impression that he or she was right from the beginning, just didn't get to consider all sides of the issue.

Invite the person to describe their ideal solution to the problem

Try not to use "buts."

According to clinical psychologist Susan Heitler, "but" is a subtraction mark in conversation. It erases what has just been saying. That's why it's better to use other wording: "along with that," "also," or "at the same time."

Try to record every time you say the word "but." If it happens often, you may not be building a constructive dialogue, but simply engaging in denial of what your interlocutor is saying. That way you will argue ad infinitum.


I understand that it's important for you to develop in another area. But right now our company can't meet your needs.


I understand that it's important for you to work with more challenging and interesting tasks. At the same time, I understand that right now our company cannot meet your needs.

Give specific examples.

Psychologist Holly Weeks assures that when you refer to real situations or detail fictional ones, it makes your reasoning more precise and accurate, and the interlocutor easier to perceive the information.

Holly Weeks

Consulting psychologist, author of books.

Clarity, neutral tone, and restraint are the building blocks of all types of effective communication. "Clarity" means that words should serve their immediate function. Avoid euphemisms, generalizations, and vague phrases; be clear and direct about what situation you have in mind. If the person understands the content of the message, it is easier for him to comprehend the information. And later, it's easier to agree with you.


Our team's requests, as always, are ignored!


When we needed to prepare a presentation last month on a tight deadline, we could have brought in an extra person to do part of the research, which would have saved us a day.

Don't try to change the whole picture of the world in one conversation

Entrepreneur and journalist Shane Snow, in her book "Dream Teams. The Team as One," writes that consistency is the most important and difficult element of a productive discussion in an argument. Evading answers and changing the subject (even if the other is also important) will not help in a particular conversation, but will only confuse your opponent.

Remember, a man needs time, and you are not omnipotent.

Even if you followed all of our advice and it still didn't work out, that's okay. According to Adam Grant, changing someone's mind is a difficult task, because the result depends not only on the persuader.

Adam Grant

I realized that I can't change someone's mind. All I can do is try to understand the other person's thinking and ask if they are ready for a rethink. The rest is up to him.

Perhaps your opponent needs time. After all, it's not easy to change your views.