How to Convince an Opponent

How to Convince an Opponent

PRINCIPLE #1: Build Common Ground

As Julia Galef points out in her TED talk [1]: science found clear trades of people, that are able to see the truth in data: You must be CURIOUS to learn new things. You must be OPEN to new ideas and GROUNDED so that you are ok if the evidence will prove you wrong.

Principle #2: Create Positive Emotions

It’s not enough to say the right things. You need to wrap it in a story. Science found that an impactful story must be also positive to drive change in conviction [4]. No surprise that negative stories of drug prevention campaigns do not work.

Principle #3: Build TRUST

Science found that presenting selected “convincing” facts typically has the OPPOSITE effect — referred to as “backfire” or “boomerang effect” [7].

  • Speak to your “opponents” personal interests
  • Argue on the “opponents” personal values
  • Be positive and optimistic rather than negative and cynic
  • Weave your information in a story
  • Make sure this story creates an emotional aha moment
  • Do not intent to convince, intent to inspire
  • Start always acknowledging the opponent’s view
  • Guard your reputation as your biggest asset. In doubt, let someone with a clean sheet help you.



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Frank Buckler, PhD.

Founder of and CEO of Success Drivers // Pioneering Causal AI for Insights since 2001 // Author, Speaker, Daddy