Hearts and Minds

Hearts and Minds

Converting hearts and minds is a no-win proposition. The secret is to focus on your friends.

One of the more enlightening articles I read this past week was a 2016 chestnut from Dr. Bobby Azarian. It’s a deep dive into the psychology behind Donald Trump’s Unwavering Support. Whether you like the guy or hate the guy, it’s a fascinating look into why it’s nearly impossible to convert hearts and minds to a different point of view.

There is little we can do to change someone’s mind once it’s made up.

We don’t want to know what we don’t know.

The Dunning-Kruger effect comes into play. People who are misinformed don’t realize that they are misinformed. Azarian writes, “..if one is under the illusion that they have sufficient or even superior knowledge, then they have no reason to defer to anyone else’s judgment.”

People who like things as they are can be hypersensitive to threat.

A brain-imaging study found that those of us who self-select as “conservative” often have a larger amygdala, that part of the brain that is more active when we feel fear or  anxiety. “Fear keeps (Trump’s) followers energized and focused on safety,” Azarian says. “And when you think you’ve found your protector, you become less concerned with remarks that would normally be seen as highly offensive.”

Fear pushes us into the tent of the fear monger.

Fear mongering makes us think of our own mortality. Death is something we try to avoid thinking about at all costs. When images or actions bring it to the front of mind, they can shift our beliefs toward the right. Fomenting fear, uncertainty and doubt is a powerfully effective tool to control hearts and minds. It gets our attention and can influence our behavior.

Attacking a belief only makes the person dig in his heels.

The irony of the unsure.

A Northwestern University study found that the less confident we are in our beliefs, the more likely we are to try to defend them. This is amplified when you are under attack.

How often have you felt that opiate high after posting a political cartoon or shouting back at a social media friend who doesn’t agree with your politics? You’re only hurting yourself.

All of the inflammatory memes you are sharing on Facebook are only more deeply entrenching the paradigms you hope to shift.

You can’t change hearts and minds. Go find the like-minded.

The secret of Barack Obama’s electoral success had nothing to do with converting his enemies. It was all about getting his friends to vote. During my executive career, I worked with Blue State Digital, one of Obama’s key campaign advisers. They helped set up an effective machine that identified pro-Obama voters and ensured that they voted. The identifying question that the door to door organization asked was, “Are you an Obama supporter?” If the answer was yes, the team kept in close touch, encouraging early and absentee voting, and providing transportation to the polls on election day.

If the answer was “no”, it was the end of the conversation.

The Greater Good Science Center at Berkley concludes that meaningful attitudinal change takes a long time. It requires respectful dialogue, without contempt or confrontation. Understanding where the other person is coming from is key. Acknowledging opposing points of view and dealing with complicated root causes is hard work.

And in the end, you may make a friend but not change a mind.

Don’t waste time with people who can’t help you get to where you want to be.

Invest in those who can. Seek them out. Add value to their lives. And get them to the polls on election day.

The demagogue preys on the ignorant. He crafts lies that the frightened want to believe. He openly preaches the hatred that has always existed in the shadows of fearful minds. We can’t change the souls he has seduced.

The only way to win is to out-number them.