How Can You Change Made-up Minds? - Part 1

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The mind of man is often like a house of which he is the landlord; bad tenants are more easily admitted than removed.
— James Lendall Basford 1882

Regularly, clients ask how to change others minds, especially when it appears the other person has made up their mind and seems unlikely to change.  Sometimes this is because you are not trying to persuade the other person, you are just giving them your opinion and then getting frustrated because they don’t agree with you. But let’s assume you have tried some professional ways to persuade and you are stuck.  In a series of blogs, we will give you some ideas to get unstuck and to get other people to change their minds.

When people get their mind made up about something, then it’s: “Don’t bother me with facts.” They’ve got their minds made up and dismiss you out of hand. Some people don’t even give you a fair hearing.
— Frank Peretti

What you should not do is to try to convince them with better logic. The more you argue, the more they talk about their position and the more committed they become to their position. Let’s try some of Cialdini’s six levers of persuasion. In Cialdini’s classic book that has sold more than 3 million copies, he explains the different principles and how they make a difference.

Reduce Uncertainty

If you want to reduce uncertainty for them, try social proof and authority proof.  With social proof, show them who else, that they respect, supports what you recommend (and disagrees with them) and which other organisations, that they respect, agree with you.

With authority proof, show that an expert supports you. Show they are an expert by referring to their qualifications or experience.

Motivate to Act

After reducing uncertainty, try motivating them to act. One of the most powerful persuaders is consistency.  Cialdini says “It is, quite simply, our nearly obsessive desire to be and to appear consistent with what we have already done”.  In our experience, despite its power, this is the least well understood and least well-used lever of persuasion. 

Cialdini explains how consistency can increase by four times the number of people willing to put a huge sign in their garden blocking the view of their house. How did psychologists Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser increase the number of willing house owners from 17% to 76%? Ten days before, house owners had agreed to display in their window a small postcard supporting road safety.

Why does this work? We all want to remain consistent with things we have said or done: our public commitments. Especially if these are written, voluntary and active public commitments. Imagine after having the postcard in the window for ten days; there was a knock at the door. When you see a picture of the huge sign, what question could they ask to convince you to put that large sign in your garden? You answer the door and are asked the question: we know you support road safety, so to help us would you be willing to put this sign in your garden for a few weeks?

As I imagine myself in this situation, I can feel the pressure to say yes.  That does not mean everyone will say yes, however far more people will when you use this approach.

Change your mind about something significant every day.
— Malcolm Gladwell

How can you use this in business?

Look for any public statements by the other person about what they say is important. With social media like LinkedIn and Twitter, this is getting easier. What about in presentations? With executives what have they said are their priorities in strategy or long-term plans? Customer service or safety or growth or employee satisfaction? How can you link what you want them to do with their stated priority and how can you show that their thinking is inconsistent with their stated priority?


An example, a grocery buyer told an account manager they planned to remove their market-leading brand from the shelf and replace it with a lower priced alternative who had offered them a good deal. 

Later in the week, the account manager presented to the buyer. The first two slides outlined the grocer's consumer strategy including make it easy for the consumer and bring the consumer leading brands.  After getting the buyer to agree this was the strategy, the account manager went on to show the proposed action was inconsistent with the strategy. For example, how could it be making it easier for the consumer by presenting them with a brand they did not know? Also, how did the proposed action support bringing the consumer leading brands?


Using the consistency principle is very powerful because we all feel uncomfortable when it seems we are inconsistent. To change the toughest mind, reach for the tool of consistency.