Beliefs stick like super glue in the brain when you are attempting to persuade someone who believes something that runs counter to your proposal.
You want your client to buy you, your product, your service. They have a belief about you, your product, your service. You want to change it and have proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that their belief is wrong and that “evidence” you have is correct. They will not buy from you if you show them that evidence…even if it is crystal clear proof.
You face an uphill (though not impossible) battle.
You already know that people stick with political parties and religions (the reason you aren’t supposed to talk about them in polite conversation) regardless of evidence to the contrary.
I remember when the California campaign to elect Bob Dole as President asked for my assistance in 1996. I said no. Part of the platform at the time in the Republican party was that cigarettes aren’t that bad for you. (I’m paraphrasing to keep this short.) How idiotic can you get? But tobacco was putting big money into the Dole campaign. They therefore were down playing the negative effects of tobacco and I wasn’t interested in being associated with anything like that. (I happen to like Bob Dole very much, by the way, this was simply crossing an ethical boundary in my mind.)
My belief was strong that promoting the idea that tobacco is less deadly than it is would simply be wrong. I would never be able to live with myself. It took almost 10 seconds to make this decision.
Beliefs Run Deep
Political and religious beliefs run deep because of the degree that they are defended against others who believe otherwise. The more beliefs are defended, the more deeply entrenched they become. As humans become emotionally intense about their beliefs, they become more difficult to overcome with logic or even outright facts that completely banish the belief…to a logical mind. And logic alone rarely can eliminate a belief. Typically only other beliefs can help in unseeding beliefs.
What about “shallow” beliefs?
But what about beliefs that aren’t defended as much? What if the belief is not about being a Democrat or Catholic, Republican or Jew? What if the belief has much less involvement at the emotional level?
How would you test this to know we weren’t guessing about a philosophy of persuasion instead of a factual understanding?
You would have to induce a belief then try and change it…
Two groups of people were given brief descriptions and questionnaires about a quality that makes fire fighters successful or not at their job. (Anderson, Lepper, Ross, 1980)
One group was given substantial information that successful fire fighters are risk-taking individuals. The other group was given substantial information supporting the idea that fire fighters who are not successful tend to be risk-takers.
Then the experimenter totally discredits the information he gave the participants. “It was completely fictitious. I made it up. There is no evidence one way or the other.”
Those who were told that good fire fighters are risk-takers continued to believe what they had come to believe.
Those who were told that good fire fighters are NOT risk-takers continued to believe what they had come to believe.
There was no change.
In a later follow-up study, when the participants were asked WHY they believed what they had come to believe, their beliefs STRENGTHENED after they had given the causal (WHY) explanation.
Interesting note: Participants did NOT explain that the reason for their belief was because of the experiment they took part in. In each case it was attributed to other reasons. Many did not remember they even received this information in an experiment!
More Research Study Material
Now, here is some scary news about people’s beliefs from research:
Two groups of people are surveyed for their beliefs (pro/con) about capital punishment as a deterrent to the crime of murder.
Then each person in the two groups are given an article. Half the people in each group get an article that reveals that, in general, murder rates drop in states where capital punishment is made law.
The other half of the people in each group are given an article that reveals that, in general, murder rates do not drop in states where capital punishment becomes law.
The original beliefs were substantially changed…but not in the direction of the evidence they were presented, but the opposite. Those who were shown that capital punishment didn’t deter murder believed more strongly that it did if they believed that in the first place.
Over the coming months I’ll show you what you need to know about the different “types” of beliefs, how they come to be so intensely defended and the very few strategies that actually work in unplugging erroneous beliefs.
Want a preview?
Many people attempt to persuade others by telling them what happened to themselves in a certain circumstance…(“I tried it and it really works!” or to someone like the client “they are just like you and they tried it and it worked!”) These strategies have been proven to not work.
What does work is when you can get the client to imagine themselves performing the target behavior you need them to and experiencing (internally or externally) that behavior in some way. In fact, this strategy is so powerful when used correctly, I’m going to devote an entire article to it! I’ll show you step by step what to do, when and how. Be watching!
More info just like this?
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