Have you ever noticed that when you confront someone with facts that challenge their deeply held beliefs, rather than changing their minds they often dig in their heels?
In a series of experiments by Dartmouth College professor Brendan Nyhan and University of Exeter professor Jason Reifler, the researchers identified a factor they call the Backfire Effect “in which corrections actually increase misperceptions among the group in question.” Why? “Because it threatens their worldview or self-concept.”
If corrective facts only make matters worse, what can we do to persuade people who seem immovable? (Tweet it!) Michael Shermer, writing in the “Behavior and Society” column of Scientific American suggests:
1. keep emotions out of the exchange;
2. discuss, don't attack;
3. listen carefully and try to articulate the other position accurately;
4. be respectful;
5. acknowledge that you understand why someone might hold that opinion; and
6. try to show how accepting facts does not necessarily mean changing one’s worldview.
What strategies do you employ when trying to persuade someone who does not share a common set of facts with you? Have you had any successes? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
If you would like to read more about creating a habit around communication mastery, check out our book: Be Quiet, Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion.