Changing People’s Mind



This article is based on “The Catalyst” by Jonah Berger.

Changing people’s minds will work much better if you remove roadblocks and lower the barriers that keep people from acting.

To reduce resistance, negotiators allow for agency not by telling people what to do or by being completely hands-off, but by finding the middle ground.  By guiding their path.

Why ask what might change a person’s mind, start with the question: Why hasn’t that person changed already?

John Berger “The Catalyst”

Four keyways to help your discussion:

  1. Start with understanding – listen to what the other person is saying. Not thinking about your reply but about what they actually feel and believe.
  2. Provide a menu, – Give a menu of options that allow the other person to choose…within boundaries.
  3. Asked, don’t tell – Who likes being told what to think or do?  We all want to feel we are changing because we decided not because we were told.
  4. Highlight gaps – Find that gap in the discussion that allows for an opening. Conspiracies have no proof or they wouldn’t be conspiracies.

We need to relearn what it means to engage in real conversation on difficult subjects.


Principle one reactance

When pushed, people push back.  Just like a missile defense system protects against incoming projectiles people have an innate anti persuasion radar.

Principle 2 endowment

As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. People are wedded to what they already are doing. And unless what they are doing is terrible, they don’t want to switch.

Principle three distance

People have an innate anti persuasion system, but even when we just provide information, sometimes it backfires. Why? Another barrier is distance. If new information is within people’s zone of acceptance, they’re willing to listen.

But if it’s too far away, in the region of rejection, everything flips. Communication is ignored or, even worse, increases the opposition.  

Principle four uncertainty

Change often involves uncertainty. Will the new product, or service, or idea be as good as the old one? It’s hard to know for sure, and this uncertainty makes people hit the pause button, halting action. To overcome this barrier, catalyst make things easier to try. Like free samples at the supermarket

Principle 5 corroborating evidence

Sometimes one person, no matter how knowledgeable or assured, is not enough. Some things just need more proof. More evidence to overcome the translation problem and drive to change.

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top
Follow by Email