I have already discussed in updating my favourite fruit that the decision once taken in an early age becomes hardwired in our brains and becomes part of our selves just like height and hair color.
Probably due to this reason, I have never seen people change their minds in most situations of my life. Fitting your idea into someone else’s brain is a hard thing to do. Forget about an adult, ask this question from the parent of a two year old child! This is why leaders are so important in an organization because they implant their sense of direction in the employees’ minds as if their own.
So what happens when you either want to go into a discussion to win it, or find yourself in such a situation by chance? In my opinion, the following three steps are necessary for a discussion to come to a logical end. If any of these steps is missing, the result is a stalemate.
- Strong opinions, loosely held: Both persons usually come to the discussion with the mindset that their opinions are correct and based on solid evidence. However, both of them should also entertain this idea in their minds that they could be wrong, and if a stronger evidence is presented, they are open to changing their minds. The idea holds true even if it is in probabilistic terms (e.g., a 10% chance of being wrong).
- Respect: Both persons should hold a significant level of respect for each other’s knowledge and experience. It is very difficult to change your mind to the opinion of someone you consider a fool.
- It’s a Transaction: Most of us forget that it is extremely difficult to gain anything from anyone without giving something. The whole world and its systems, including our closest relatives, are based on give and take transactions. The currencies of these transactions are different (money, love, respect, friendship) but these are transactions nonetheless. Therefore, most probably, to win a discussion by changing the other person’s mind, you need to give in some point or points. Now it depends on the context of the discussion which argument you should accept from the other before convincing them of whatever is more important to you. According to Stephen Covey, “In order to have influence, you have to be influenced”. I would preferably go into a discussion already identifying which of my arguments I badly need to win and on which I can concede.
As an addon, Dale Carnegie mentions in his book How to win friends and influence people about starting a discussion on a positive note, just like a snooker ball rolling in one direction is difficult to divert. At any rate, enter into a discussion only if all of the three items above are checked. Otherwise, it might just be one of the numerous useless discussions we usually have in our lives.