What counts as dangerous ignorance or outdated dogma? What qualifies as a malignant tradition, defunct politics, or a misguided practice? What norms are so harmful, what beliefs are so incorrect that, once we know how to change minds, we should take every opportunity to do so? And here’s the kicker: How do we know when we are right and they are wrong?
But also, what does the phrase “change your mind” even mean?
We will answer all of these going forward, but I didn’t start this journey with these questions in mind. They came later, after a good deal of my own ignorance revealed itself. That’s why I think we must ask ourselves these questions here, before we begin, and bring them along to the lessons and conversations ahead.
The ability to change our minds, update our assumptions, and entertain other points of view is one of our greatest strengths, an evolved ability that comes free with every copy of the human brain. You soon will see why, to leverage that strength, we must avoid debate and start having conversations. Debates have winners and losers, and no one wants to be a loser. But if both sides feel safe to explore their reasoning, to think about their own thinking, to explore their motivations, we can each avoid the dead-end goal of winning an argument.
Instead, we can pursue the shared goal of learning the truth.
From “How Minds Change: The Surprising Science of Belief, Opinion, and Persuasion” by David McRaney