The title of this post is identical to a chapter in “Think Like a Freak” by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubnar. They begin the chapter by asking us to understand that this will be a difficult task. One problem is that logic and fact are no match for ideology. However, they do not address why it is difficult to persuade people who do not want to be persuaded. I think Kahneman’s two process view of cognition provides the best basic for understanding the difficulty. Remember that System 1, intuition, is fast, emotional, and our default mode for processing. System 2, called reasoning, is slow and effortful. So when we try to persuade people who do not want to be persuaded, their System 1 processing effectively filters out our message as being nonsensical. This is why debates are rarely useful. The two parties are effectively talking past each other given the protection provided by their System 1 processes.
The only helpful information, besides not insulting the party we are trying to win over, is that stories provide an effective means of communication. Unfortunately, they are not necessarily a means of persuading someone who does not want to be persuaded. Persuading someone who does not want to be persuaded requires the invocation of their System 2 processes. If a story does this, then it just might work.
They key to persuasion is to find a point of agreement, this breaks down System 1 defenses, and to build from the point once System 2 processes are activated. Sometimes this can be done by introducing a new perspective from which the topic can be considered. This can invoke System 2 processes which can bring the argument into the framework of the individual being persuaded.
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