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Make Others Change Their Mind

15 Jun 2017


We are all pretty smart people and we don’t like being told what to do. Not only do we dislike taking orders from others, we also get annoyed when they try to “convince” us to do something. In fact, our response is often to INCREASE our resistance if someone tries to persuade us to act in a particular way.

So, yes, it’s pretty difficult to persuade others to do what we would like them to do.

BUT there is an exception.

What is self-persuasion?


 “Self-persuasion” is the psychological term we use for the art of influencing others in such a way that   they persuade THEMSELVES to do what you want them to do. The concept is often applied in marketing and advertising, but it is just as relevant in our day to day interactions. For example, consider these simplified scenarios.


Mother-in-law: You are always too busy with your job. You don’t give any time to us at home.

You:  Please try to understand… we are closing a very important deal. You need to understand how important my salary is as well.

Here you are trying to give facts to convince your MIL to back off, but chances are she will treat it like arrogance. She may get defensive and counter that your salary is NOT as important.


Mother-in-law: You are always too busy with your job. You don’t give any time to us at home.

You:  Sorry you feel that way. Do you think I should quit my job? It will mean a ₹80,000 drop in income per month, so I wonder how well we can manage it. Can you give me some ideas?

Here, you are making your mother-in-law directly face what is at stake. She is forced to see that her complaints may result in unwanted consequences and she is likely to back off. She will reason in her own mind that the financial security is more useful than a few extra cups of tea and gupshup in a day!

Research has shown that we are more likely to change our mind when we are forced to make an argument ourselves, even if it contradicts our current point of view. For example, a 2012 study found that anti-smoking messages were more effective when people said them themselves, instead of just listening to them.

Thus, lecturing your mother-in-law about financial stability may backfire. However, if you pose questions at her that force HER to analyse the financial implications of you leaving your job, the outcome will be different.

Techniques of self-persuasion

Here are some simple techniques through which you can make someone persuade themselves to adopt a new viewpoint or behaviour.

Play the devil’s advocate: Your husband really wants to buy an expensive new motorbike even though you are in a financial crunch? This time don’t yell at him when he brings it up. Instead ask him a series of questions: how does he think it will impact that month’s finances? What’s the worst case scenario? How safe is it? Can he get similar thrills with a cheaper model? Can the purchase be postponed until you are in a better financial position? As he answers these questions, his own desire to immediately buy the bike might go down.


Do role-playing: Sometimes it helps to consciously “swap” places with another person and make them see things from your perspective. For example, if your spouse insists that you are being unreasonable in asking for more of his time, ask him to play a game where he plays you and you play him. In this exercise, both of you will be voicing the other person’s perspective and thus BOTH may be in a better position to find a middle ground. You will be able to step away from your own point of view and also develop more empathy and insight.




Tags: #Persuasion